I recently had the opportunity to get some great insights from new YA mural artist, Beth Wilson. She recently joined our roster after returning to Portland and is raring to go! She brings a great passion for both kids and art to her work, and Young Audiences is thrilled to have her!
Q: What is your background (art and otherwise)?
A: I was raised in Seattle and as an adult I have lived in Chicago, Mexico and Hawaii. Moving to Portland 6 years ago felt like coming home. I have always been a maker of things. I am formally trained in ceramics, mosaic and bookbinding. Despite my formal training I believe that anything can be an art supply or a source of inspiration; the recycling bin, or fallen petals in the garden. I earned my MFA in Eugene, but my best teacher has been my daughter who is constantly teaching me the magic of slowing down and making friends with ants.
Q: What makes you want to work with kids/schools?
A: I truly see working with kids as collaboration; I have as much to learn from them and their communities as they do from me. I am refueled by their perspectives and approaches to the problems that the creative process inevitably offers. School-wide (or even classroom-wide) art projects are an opportunity for the adults in this community to model what we want to teach our children: respect, communication, problem-solving, and teamwork. Upon completion, the community is left with a beautiful product to inspire and remind them of the experience. Every time I am given the opportunity to facilitate this experience I am in turn inspired.
Q: What do you hope a kid gets out of a residency or workshop with you?
A: I want a child to come away from my residency feeling excited to DO MORE. I want kids to see that creativity includes math and ecology – that it is a form of communication. The craziest ideas are often the best and most fun. I want a child to feel empowered as an individual, as well as have a strengthened sense of place within their community.
Q: What do you hope a teacher gets out of working with you in their classroom?
A: I hope that educators will feel inspired to use the creative process as an experiential learning tool to enforce scientific and ecological concepts in their classroom. I want to support teachers that feel like they “aren’t the creative type” to find ways to experiment and play with their students, knowing it is the process and not necessarily the product.
Q: What is a favorite moment you’ve had working with students?
A: When I was making mosaic murals in Chicago, we would often be in some of the most depressed and dangerous neighborhoods in the city. I remember one boy – probably about 15 – who would not take his hat off (gang related), never made eye contact, and spoke in one word answers to any question. I assumed he didn’t hear a word I said. Then one day, about 5 or 6 weeks into the project, I looked over and he was making these lovely graceful forms with the tile – using the nippers perfectly. It literally brought tears to my eyes. Despite his demeanor he had been listening and taking it all in! Once he let go just a little bit, he was truly a natural. At the end of the workshop he volunteered to be a student artist on our next project. This meant that he would travel out of his neighborhood for the first time in his life. This was truly a life changing event! Extreme examples like this are few and far between, but not as few as one would think. Art is the great equalizer.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
A: No matter how ambiguous or defined your idea for you class or school is there is always room for playfulness and genuine contributions from every person in the community. Let all that energy that your students have guide the process. I am happy to be the guard rails or air traffic control.