Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The hallway gallery; how it was created!

Tempera elephant, 18"x 24" - grade 1
I wrote about this butterfly project, on 12"x 18" paper, here and here.  The original inspiration for the project came from Art Project Girl.
 My tiny rural school district built a new K-12 school about 15 years ago.  Before then, we had been in three impractical old buildings in three towns, each several miles (and an exit on the highway) apart.  It was wonderful bringing the whole district together in one building.  When we moved in, I noticed a long stretch of hallway.  A main atrium leads from the front of the building to the doors to the central library.  Then, a long hallway stretches left to the elementary end of the building, and right to the secondary.  The hallway travels along the back of the auditorium and gymnasium, which means that one side of the hallway has no doorways, no windows; nothing.  On the other side of the hall, there's a couple of doors to the nurse's office, and again, a long stretch of unbroken wall. I thought it would be great to create a growing permanent gallery of student artwork along this otherwise drab hall. In this post, I'll tell you how I made that happen, and talk a little about the artwork in the gallery.
Andy Warhol tempera cat, 9"x 12" - grade 3
Tempera cityscape; color mixing exercise 14"x 16" - grade 4
 All photos in this post are from the elementary wing of this gallery.  (It took a few years before the high school art teacher decided to participate in this idea.)  Due to the narrowness of the hall, the height of the artwork, my (lack of) height, and poor lighting, the photos are not great quality.  There's reflections of the glass from the hall light, the color balance is often wacky, and because of my height, some of the pics were taken at an angle.  I was only able to get pictures of of about 2/3 the elementary artwork, and I did not get photos of the high school part of the gallery.  Currently, there are about 60 elementary pieces, and about 20 secondary works, including photography.  I tried to crop, edit, and color balance the photos to a point, but they are definitely not up to my usual photos standards.  But I think they will do for this post!  Anyhow, here's how the gallery came to exist, in case this is something you want to do in a neglected hallway in your school.
Oriental fan design with ink and Mod Podge - grade 6
 Above, 18"x 24" teddy bear paintings - grade 2.  Our 2nd grade takes an annual field trip crossing Lake Champlain on a ferry, to go to the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory.  We always built teddy bear chairs in grade 2, for their bears to relax in!  I have posted about making these teddy bear chairs, here and here

 In the beginning, acting in partnership with the PTSA, my students created artwork for the annual PTSA fundraiser.  The PTSA did all the paperwork and organization of the fundraiser; I was just responsible for having every student grades K-6 create a suitable work of art.  In return, the PTSA agreed to give me a sum of money each year, to subsidize having 3 pieces of student art professionally matted and framed. Meanwhile, I made the selection of student art from work that I saved throughout the year.  I saved about a dozen pieces, and then brought in a few other staff 'critics' to help make decisions about the selections.  This kept me from 'playing favorites'.  They did not see the student names when picking artwork.
Black glue and chalk pastels, 12"x 18", after Peter Max - grade 5
Marker 'shoescape' with contour line shoes, 18"x 24" - grade 5
 One basic rule: I would never select the same child's artwork twice.  All students whose work was selected for the gallery were given a letter to take home, asking permission for their artwork to be permanently installed in the gallery.  I gave each student a certificate, and also took a photo of each child with his/her artwork, and printed it and put it in a small frame for a keepsake gift.  After a couple of years, I began to be more thoughtful about the media for the pieces selected, being aware of fading.  In the beginning, I hung a beautiful construction paper mola, and a Picasso 'fractured face' with markers, and both have faded significantly.  A couple of lovely still life paintings in watercolor are also quite faded.  Tempera and acrylic seem to hold up well.  We generally select work that is colorful, since the hallway is rather lifeless otherwise.  Thus, you won't see subtle charcoal drawings here.  Also, if we were debating a final selection, then we would look at the names of artists represented, and try to select students that did not usually get recognition otherwise.  Several talented special education students have lovely pieces hanging on the gallery wall.
Patterned cat, oil pastels on tempera, 18"x 24"  - grade 5
Glue and pastel chalks on black paper, 12"x 18" - grade
 Over the years, I wanted to add more artwork each year, so I was frugal about how I used the money.  I bought a good mat cutter and started cutting all the mats myself.  For smaller mats, I could use mat board 'cutouts' given to me by my framer.  I think you will find that most framers will willingly donate mat board scraps to art teachers! 
Painted tissue paper collage, a la Eric Carle, 12"x 18" - grade 4
Sharpie on foil dragon - grade 3; read about how we did the project here. Original inspiration for the use of materials came from a post by Sharpie Woman, here.
 Then, suddenly, several years ago, after a dispute, the PTSA disbanded. (This should serve as a reminder to you all how quickly a disparaging remark made on Facebook will get back to the person being criticized.  That's what started the crumbling of an active PTSA.  Think before you post!)  I found myself without funding, couldn't legally hold a fund drive myself, and frankly didn't have the time to handle it all anyhow.  
 Above, two 18"x 24" "Jazz" paintings in tempera, with CD's - grade 2
Victorian architecture, enlarged detail; tempera, I believe 16"x 18", perhaps? - grade 3
 So I went to my lovely framer, who also framed work for a couple of other area art teachers.  As I said, she had always donated mat board scraps to me; now, she offered to donate some frames, too!  Often, someone will bring something to a framer already in a frame, that they want to replace.  The customer doesn't want the old frame back.  Maybe there's a nick in the wood, or the color is wrong, or the corner needs re-gluing.  The framer can't sell that old frame.  If you form a good relationship with a framer, this is a great way to find frames for student artwork.  Three years after I retired, there's still a box with a few frames left to be used, in my old classroom storage room.  The framer even gave me a couple of large frames that I was able to use for my personal artwork, with her permission!  I would order some large mat board from my annual budget, and use the mat board cutouts from the framer for smaller pieces.
Fauve elephant, tempera, with tissue collage frame, 16" x 20" - grade 3 (click here for details)
At this point, my selection process had to change a bit.  In the beginning, the framer made the frames to fit the artwork, always using the same frame style.  Now, I had frames in a variety of shapes, styles and materials, and I had to select artwork that would fit the frames I had available.  The gallery grew by as many as 6 or 7 pieces of art a year, and by this time, the high school teacher had gotten involved, and we worked together to prepare the work to hang.
 Above, 12"x 18" goldfish bowls a la Matisse, by grade 2 are a collage mix of watercolor, wallpaper, painted paper, and tempera.  Read about the project here and about the still life used for this, here.  The same still life setup was used for the 4th grade 18"x24" tempera painting below.  Read about this project here and here.
 The custodial staff has been responsible for actually installing the artwork.  In the beginning, I would get upset because it wasn't hung exactly at the height I intended, or the distance apart, but I learned to temper my annoyance and remember that nobody noticed those things except me.  The artwork was hung, and that was the important thing.  And then, over the years, the custodian hanging the work learned to come to me, and together we would mark off the wall to show exactly which piece went where.  I love coming into the school now and seeing the gallery, and knowing that kids can walk down the hall, point to a framed work of art, and say "I did that!  I'm an artist!"
The 9"x12" piece above, by a 4th grade girl, was a design for a greeting card for a fundraiser project by request of a local charitable organization.  The lettering wasn't up to the necessary standard so it wasn't ultimately selected, but I loved the idea.  The 12"x18" tempera painting below was by her 4th grade sister the following year.  They moved away, left these pieces behind, and I found frames to fit them both.  Maybe they will return some day!
 Here's a few more pieces -
 Above left is a 12"x18" name reflection in metallic and black tempera, grade 5, and two small chalk on wet bogus paper abstractions, with  Mod Podge glaze, by grade 2.

Below, the 12"x 18" tempera mask on the left is by a 3rd grader.  The 1st grade portrait on the right was made of Mary, by Karen, by direct observation, when they were in 1st grade, before the new school had been built.  They both graduated from high school a few years ago, and Mary's mother, a former school board member, and her father, school groundskeeper, gave the piece back to me to frame and add to the gallery.  I believe you still could pick Mary's freckled face out of a crowd based on this lovely portrait. 
 And yes, of course the hallway wouldn't be complete without a few framed 'toothpaste batik' works of art, by grade 5, below.  I have posted about this project several times, so just search 'toothpaste batik' in the search bar on the right, or click on 'toothpaste batik' from the label cloud at the bottom of the blog  Too many links to include here!
 And yes, a few more before I sign off...  
The first two, below, were tempera, 18" square, by grade 2.  We looked at Laurel Burch's series of celestial images, and created decorative suns and moons.  I'm smitten by these pieces, I admit.
 And of course, like everyone else, I've done this project below, too; my original motivation came not from a fellow blogger, but much before the internet existed: from an art ed text I found dated from the50's or early 60's, I believe. - 18"x 24" tempera, grade 3
 And these 4th grade trees are 12"x 18" tempera, a limited color project.  Two colors to use together for sky, two for ground, two for tree.
 I don't usually select Kindergarten pieces because I'm not sure they understand, but I was smitten by this piece and I had a frame that fit it perfectly.  Tempera, maybe 10"x14"?  It's an odd size.
 And finally, this moody painting done with tempera, painted over a textured surface created by drawing with Elmer's Glue-All, and sprinkling sand into the wet glue.  I posted about this here and here.You will find a better photo of the unframed piece there.  The original idea for the technique was found here.  Gotta give credit where credit is due!


  1. Some truly spectacular works!
    Fantastic gallery!

    1. Thanks! Many pieces are from before I started blogging!

  2. How lovely to have a permanent gallery! It sends the school community such a powerful message about the value of art and education.

    1. Thanks, Christie. I love seeing it every time I'm in the school, and I love that there is now high school work, too.

  3. Awww thanks for the shout out! Your work is so amazing! I am feeling recharged in the art teaching world and I will posting more ideas soon and keep up with my blogger friends! xo

    1. OOH that's good to hear! I know how hard it is to keep up with the blogging, but you are always so insightful!