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Design Me An Okra
by Allan Appel | Sep 30, 2013 1:13 pm
Posted to: Arts & Culture, Food, Schools
A girl ate the art she created. A boy learned how to capture a moving target with his pencil.
Her medium was rice and vegetables. His was a chicken named Colleen.
Artistic sushi-making and observational chicken drawing were among dozens of creative and fun activities at the Foote School’s Arts Day celebration. The celebration unfolded Friday morning on the bucolic private K-9 school campus off Loomis Street.
The day-long extravaganza of visual and performing arts underlines the centrality of the arts at the school, said Carol Maoz, who has been leading the independent school for five years.She said it shares a three-year cycle with STEM day, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math; and United for Understanding Day, a cultural and social action exposition in which, like Arts Day, kids, teachers, and their contacts in the community participate.
Older kids led younger kids in activities such as the construction of fairy abodes, and alums often come back to lead the workshops.
There was method to the fun, said Foote’s Head of Art Karla Matheny who identified pedagogic goals in each as the four C’s: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication.
A lot of those were in evidence in a nearby classroom, where Foote School 1984 alum Bun Lai (pictured), of Miya’s Sushi restaurant fame, had attracted about 15 young chefs to his artistic sushi-making workshop.
Sixth-grader Jessie Goodwin had created an artistic pattern in circular sushi using okra, sweet potato, white potato, and other ingredients.
“The art tasted delicious,” she said.
As he did the wielding of the sharp knife for the kids, Miya’s master chef said, “It’s about rethinking what to expect. There’s no white rice or fish [in what he brought the kids to work with], or what you’d expect [for sushi]. They’re putting together combinations that haven’t existed before.”
That was the case with sixth-grader Paz Meyers (pictured). He made his sushi with avocado, white potato, and - the piece de resistance - apricot pieces, all held together with the seaweed.
“The apricot gave it new texture,” he said.
When Lai asked Paz what he was going to name it, the young chef replied, “the ‘Instead Of My Lunch sushi.”
Observational Chicken Drawing was led by Isabella Siegel, who is now a junior at Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden.
I was intrigued by the challenges of capturing on paper moving targets with lots of complexly designed and beautiful feathers.
When I dropped by, Isabella had two students: fifth-grader Jason Holler and seventh-grader Evie Pearson, already working away trying to capture two chickens. The chickens of course were already captured, that is, they were pecking about in a make-shift enclave.
Their owner, Deborah Riding, who heads the school’s humanities department, offered a warning: The chickens, whom she has incidentally named after her friends Betsy Sneath and Colleen-Murphy Dunning, who share the chicken’s coloring, were not particularly happy at being observed.
“They’re afraid of children, dogs, and ... reporters,” she said.
Nevertheless the two Araucana laying hens seemed perfectly fine, marching about in their enclave and frequently sticking their heads in the grass or in their shining bowl of pellets that Riding had provided.
So the learning had commenced, whether the poultry were happy about it or not.
“How many feathers [do the chickens have]?” Isabella began in the spirit of a young artistic Socrates.
“A lot,” replied Jason.
“Are we going to do them all? No, so start thinking about that,” Siegel said.
Then, as she reminisced about her own studio art classes at Foote, she gave her young charges a three-step process to rise to the challenge of drawing moving targets: First, do general shape focusing on the main parts of the chicken; the second step is the shading; the third step would be the details, like those feathers.
The kids positioned themselves sidewise to the chickens so, I surmised, they wouldn’t go crazy at all the movement. Isabella distributed pencils, vine charcoal for the shading, and then cray-pas, which she said had lots of colors similar to the chickens.
As the kids commenced, Siegel added in an encouraging, calming tone, almost like a guru of chicken observational art, “We’re taking our minds off that they move. It’s scary at first that they’re a moving target. But you get used to it. That’s the good thing about observational drawing.”
Nearby local bluegrass musician George Melillo (pictured) was leading a workshop titled “Bluegrassin and Washtub Bassin,” wherein a a half dozen kids constructed the backwoods-style instruments out of broomsticks, string, a few screws, and multi-purpose steel-utility tubs.
Meanwhile, back over at Observational Chicken Drawing, Jason was preparing to transfer his pencil drawing to new paper and was beginning to work on the shading with charcoal.
Betsy and Colleen cleared their throats with a cluck, and shoulder to shoulder continued their promenade.
The day had begun with about 320 kids doing zumba on the expansive green field of the school. They were not trying to break the Guinness Book of Record mark for the largest number of people – 6,671 in Hyderbad, India in 2012 – taking a zumba class at once.
They were trying only to shake things. Which they did.
Tags: Bun Lai, sushi, Foote School
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