Students' Creative Responses to KQED-featured Artist Michael Arcega

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I heard through the grapevine that arts educator Caren Andrews initiated a creative classroom project and included one of my favorite KQED Spark videos on Michael Arcega as inspiration for her students, so I tracked her down and asked her to share the project with us. Thanks, Caren!

Caren Andrews: I am a visual arts teacher at the San Francisco Friends School (SFFS), an independent K-8 Quaker school located in San Francisco's Mission district. I lead 220 Kindergarten through fourth grade students who mostly live in city. I am a practicing artist. Four essential questions inform my studio practice: What is art? What is an artist? How am I an artist? What is the role of the artist in the community? In order to enliven these questions contemporary artists, art practices, and examples of contemporary artworks anchor and centralize my program. Units of study are launched and supported by examples of contemporary works.

The fourth grade arts curriculum (visual arts, theatre, music, dance) is integrated and infused by the fourth grade California social studies curriculum. One of the studio understanding goals for the year is, "How are artists inspired and influenced by history?" Students build wire sculptures entitled "1849 Avatar" in response to this and the question, "What person would you be if you could travel back in time to 1849?"

Sculptures by Caren Andrews' students
Sculptures by Caren Andrews' students

Once the Avatar sculptures are built we discuss the use of alternative materials for clothing. This is a place where contemporary art practices and examples are crucial to open student thinking to possibilities beyond their first idea. I show students the Michael Arcega SPARK piece featuring the Conquistadork suite of armor and the ship made entirely of manila file folders. Arcega's work is humorous and rich with metaphor and meaning. Students grabbed onto ideas and finished their Avatar with focus, flair and wit.

Check out the video to inspire your own creative media projects. And learn more about Michael Arcega on his website,