Small A5 acrylic postcards were hung around the school’s walls in a guerilla art work theme, on display for students and teachers to see. Unidentified, with no trace of the artist or class, the pieces remained a mystery for quite some time until the artist and inspiration behind the pieces was revealed.
Started in the spring of 2015, the middle school ASP Outdoor Sketching was open to all middle schools students interested, with no skill requirements. The ASP, whose spring group consists of fifth and sixth graders, focuses on getting students to engage with artwork and see things in a different way. Meeting every Monday after school, the ASP centers on going to different locations around Saint John’s Wood and creating art. Whether it is Primrose Hill, Saint John’s Wood Church Gardens, or Abbey Road, the students worked on improving technique, while creating art that was meaningful to themselves and to those around them.
Throughout the spring, the students had a balance of technique and skill improvement, as well as free time to create what they wanted. A usual class will begin with instruction, but after a certain amount of time, the students have a chance to explore their own ideas and play around with what they have learned. Ms Kyra Kentopp is the teacher for the Outdoor Sketching ASP, and she explained how she let the students decide the direction of the class. “I tend to give them ten to fifteen minutes where they have to do something new, like a new technique, and they have to engage with it,” she explained. “If it’s a great idea they’ll stick with it. If it’s not, they’ll do what they want to do.”
While perfecting a technique, and working based off of instruction from Ms. Kentopp, it can be fairly easy for students to find inspiration, but when it comes to free draw, that is when they have to work harder to find themselves something to draw or sketch. “If there’s nothing around you that’s interesting to draw, then it might be harder,” said sixth grader Joaquin Martinez. “But, usually we’re surrounded by buildings and other things so that gives us an opportunity to draw something.”
Experiences like this have pushed the students to see from a creative lense, and open their minds to the artwork around them. “I’ve learned to observe things better, and see what I want to draw, and just notice more creative stuff around me,” said fifth grade student Charlotte Lenzy.
According to Ms. Kentopp, this ASP is not about becoming the best artist, but about, “looking at the world through an artistic lense and getting to know the local community, and feeling like they’re a part of that community.”
When creating art, not every sketch has to represent something defined or important, or even have meaning to them as they create it. “Sometimes it’s just from imagination. Sometimes you just see something and you draw it,” said Lenzy.
But, for the students and ASP in general, sometimes the most meaningful and personal pieces come from the simplest of sketches. Using their personal connections and experiences to better the community and those around them, the ASP has worked on a series of pieces that connect and give back to the school. Most notably, the ASP worked on tags for Founder’s Day, as well as acrylic post cards. The tags made for Founder’s Day were a series of orange, black, and white colored tags with a word which to them represented the school. The project proved to be one of the group’s favorites, and it gave them a chance to brighten the community by exploring what ASL means to them. “ASL is really important to me in my life and I like sharing that,” said Ms. Kentopp. “So, for this project they all came up with a word which wasn’t supposed to just be Core Values – just what they felt, which was nice because there were some Core Values, but also people’s own ideas.”
Spreading positivity and creativity, the ASP has positively affected the school community through their artwork. “There was a child who was just a little upset and unhappy, and I knew that our little tags were there,” said Ms. Kentopp. “So, I distracted them from what upsetted them and said, ‘let’s go check this out. Let’s go see what we did in my ASP.’ Until then they were very upset, but they stopped, and they took the time to read all the messages. Then they started pulling out lots of the lovely things written on there, and then suddenly there was a whole gang of like ten or eleven lower schoolers going around all the bushes and reading all the tags, and saying lots of lovely things.”
Having a public effect like the lower schoolers is what the ASP aims for, as engaging with the artwork is what gives it its value. As well as the tags, the ASP also worked on acrylic postcards which were scattered, unidentified, around the school in a guerilla artwork theme. The postcards were abstract paintings based off of what the respective student felt ASL meant to them. Leaving the artwork open for interpretation and analysis, the ASP expressed what the school meant to them through ideas, whether it was the idea of ‘welcome’ or ‘music,’ every piece had its own story and personal intent. And to them, that is what is most important. They were engaging with art work and just taking time to stop and recognize the amazing community surrounding us. “I’m so proud of the values and characters that we’re raising in this school and I wanted to celebrate Founder’s Day in a way that would give my students a chance to identify what they like. That’s what I was looking for, to just stop and look at what they’re doing and recognize how fantastic our school is. And bless them they did,” said Ms. Kentopp.
Ms. Kentopp and the students feel as if they couldn’t have achieved their goal more. Expressing their opinions and thoughts of the community through positive interaction, while engaging an audience and drawing inspiration was truly an excellent platform for them to create art, and reflect back on our ASL community.