Arts in Action at Fairfield Woods: Broad brush approach to creativity
Students at Fairfield Woods Middle School got to try on various careers for size last week and, in the process, engaged in creative self-expression during the school's 11th Bi-Annual Arts in Action program.
They closed their books and stepped away from computers for the day May 3 to instead bake cookies, decorate cakes and cupcakes, write song lyrics, tie dye T-shirts, learn to hip-hop dance, deliver a television broadcast, design board games and other hands-on activities under the guidance of about 50 artists from a variety of disciplines.
"For some people (art) is a livelihood; for some people it's a passion," said Kristen Chase, one of the middle school's art teachers and co-chairwoman of the event along with fellow art teacher Jill Duguid. Chase and Duguid said the day of activities is intended to help expand the students' definition of "art" and inspire them to explore their own talents and interests.
"Arts in Action uses a broad sense of the word: visual arts, athletic arts, culinary arts, musical arts. This day has a lot of meaning for the both of us because we get to share (with the students) what art means to the presenters. We try to broaden the spectrum of what it could be for them," Chase said.
Deb Placey, a television sports reporter for the New Jersey Devils, had students do a mock interview and broadcast in the morning session. She couldn't stay for the afternoon session because the Devils were playing in Game 3 of the NHL conference semi-final playoffs. Fairfield public schools' Health Coordinator Lori Mediate and Sara Levy, a public health coordinator, had students use fruits and vegetables to make a salad that looked as good as it tasted.
Clayton Eles, a Stamford school teacher and musician, taught four musical improvisation workshops that each concluded with a jam session. Johnny Sadowski, who graduated from Fairfield Woods Middle School in 2001, returned to teach current students some cool hip-hop moves. Sadowski lives in New York now trying to make it as a dancer and he comes back to Fairfield once a week to teach a dance class at his mother's Gotta Dance studio on Kings Highway.
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"You get a whole day to hang with your friends and do fun things," said Jackson Nuzzaci, a 13-year-old seventh-grader who signed up for sessions on cross-fit training, rugby and cupcake decorating. "It's awesome. You get to eat them after you make them," he said.
Baking was a popular activity for many male students. "I really like decorating. It's something that I've liked since I was really young. I like how there are multiple options for the frosting colors and nozzles," said Maxwell Ludlow, 12, a seventh-grader.
"I like to bake and cook," said Joey McGibbon, 12, a seventh-grader, who also participated in a TV production workshop and a cooking session. "We made corn fritters," he said.
Joey said he appreciated the Arts in Action event because students got to pick top ten choices based on their personal interests and organizers tried to accommodate those selections. He said the event also introduced students to potential careers. "If you really like something you might want to do it when you choose your profession," Joey said.
"It was fun to see what actual bakers do," said Daisy Ferleger, a 12-year-old seventh-grader after she got to decorate a cake.
One of the most popular sessions was the tape murals lead by artist Ingrid Conklin. She distributed rolls of electrical tape in a range of colors and had students create ephemeral art on the walls of the corridor.
"It's really cool; this whole day in general. It's nice to have a day devoted to the arts," said sixth-grader Brendan Ruff, 12.
Doreen Gebbia, a hobbyist portrait artist, said the event was fun but also provided students with valuable lessons. She taught them how to gather information from a face to create a portrait, which she said is really about the power of observation, a skill that can be applied to other facets of life.
In a song-writing class, students used the "Hunger Games" book as inspiration to come up with lyrics and music. A presentation by Priscilla Igram and Christine Orlando, co-founders of Young Artists Studio, had students huddling around a 3-D printer as the women demonstrated how it works. They created a whistle that actually worked.
The women challenged students to come up with their own designs for an object that could be printed in the machine. One design from each of the four sessions will be chosen and from those one student will be selected and invited to the Young Artists Studio in Fairfield to draw their design on CAD software and then have it brought to fruition in the 3-D printer.
Funding for the event was provided by the Fairfield Woods Middle School PTSA and local businesses.