Each year, in addition to the established art curriculum, Lower School Art Teacher Tara Wosiski leads community projects for students in Preschool through Grade 5. Individual grade levels create works of art as a group, and then students are invited to contribute to a collective project for the entire Lower School.
This year’s theme is “Rivers and Valleys,” and Lower Schoolers are working together to create a tapestry on a homemade loom.
“What makes our program distinctive is that in addition to our yearly art curriculum, there is a layer of community-building projects rooted in Quaker values,” said Tara. “It’s one of my favorite things to teach, because it allows students to be part of something bigger outside of their individual curricular work, and it builds understanding of installation art. It gives them a chance to come together to work toward a common goal.”
As part of the process, classes discuss the meaning of the word “community” and what being part of the Lower School and Grade 5 community means to them. These large-scale group installations have been in existence for at least eight years, utilizing a wide array of materials.
“We try to use a unique medium each year,” said Tara. “We’ve collected crayons, caps, and lids in order to create recycled art; last year, we did a ceramic mosaic, and two years before that we did a painted mural. The students have creative input as to what their community projects are and what they’re made out of.”
The projects often incorporate a larger message related to Quaker values. For example, a large-scale weaving from two years ago required students to meditate on a wish they had for the world and an action they could take to set it in motion: they wrote down their wish and action, and then they thought about it as they wove with the fabric. The final project was partnered with a display of each child’s name and their wish and action to make the world a better place.
Outside of school, “Ms. W” has her own studio practice. “I share with my students the artwork I’m creating, and I show them how I create fiber arts and crayon mosaics so they can learn how to do it. A lot of our work here is based in color, because I feel that colors elevate the spirit.”
For students who finish their curricular work ahead of schedule, Tara provides a loom and community sewing table for Grades 1 through 5.
“There are always ongoing projects students can work on once they’ve finished their individual work,” said Tara. “There is a strong focus on fine art and we are a very happy, colorful place.”