ABS Thursday Notes-July 2, 2020

How We Do It and Why
By Mary Siebert

“With so much manure in the studio, there’s bound to be a pony somewhere!” – Jan Detter

Jan Detter is a local artist who has served as an advisor and a visiting artist throughout the life of The Arts Based School. Her own artwork is predominantly mixed media and collage, but she is also a collector and curator of ideas, with an insatiable curiosity about world cultures and contemporary artists who express them. Jan assisted us directly with connecting to our local visual arts community when we started the school, and she has led staff development in large and small groups at her home, advised and assisted ABS art teachers from time to time, taught students as a visiting artist, and contributed art to our Community Creates fundraiser since it began. She served as Executive Director of Piedmont Craftsmen, taught Creativity Studies at Wake Forest, and Global Textiles at Salem College.One of her driving goals, she has said, is to help people to be “less afraid of artists.”

The ABS mosaic of brightly colored dominoes at our MLK entrance was created by Ms. Detter with Kindergarten and 1st grade students as they learned about pattern and sequence in math. The encrusted “Renaissance Piano” in the MLK lunch room was created by Jan with 3rd grade students, representing the Harlem Renaissance on one side, the Italian Renaissance on the other, drawing parallels between them and examining universal human need for expressive freedom. There are three enormous, mixed-media panels in the Art Garden at the 7th Street building which Jan helped 6th graders and UNCSA students create together, representing studies of light waves, sound waves, and elements of physics.

For many years, 4th graders and their teachers visited Jan’s home, to learn about traditional fiber arts from North Carolina, including dyeing with natural materials. We would walk down the street to collect black walnuts that had fallen to the ground, (before we had any students with severe nut allergies.) We then joined around an outdoor vat in her yard for Jan’s demonstration as she processed these and other natural materials to dye scraps that were later woven into art in the classroom.

Jan describes the current pandemic limitations as “inconvenient opportunity.” Of this, she says “We have a chance to do a lot of intense, fast learning. The brain can handle that if it has the right attitude. Our biggest challenge might be readiness to dance on hot coals.”

“Some of the worst things in my life have had some of the best impacts on my life,” Jan said. “Fear can’t be allowed to dominate the process. It’s a great opportunity for creativity. It has innovative options. Adversity is our friend. But because we don’t treat it as a friend, often we don’t gain all that we could from it. If you read art history, you see that artists constantly have things fall into their lives that are mind-bogglingly bad, and their response is “Wow, I wonder what I could get out of that,” to their own benefit and also for the benefit of others.

“Art history’s job is not to give us a sense of time, it’s to give us an awareness and appreciation for innovation. You have to open cultures to people so they can be empathetic to them. It’s not just politics, it’s reality. People need opportunity, it makes a difference in the field of creativity.”

As an example of this, Jan points passionately to El Anatsui, a Ghanaian artist now living in Nigeria, who creates exquisite, opulent, enormous wall tapestries of discarded trash, exported to Africa for processing. (Please Google El Anatsue and click on images, to see hundreds of photographs of the artist and his works.) His art has captivated the world. “His act of revolution was to say ‘I will make magnificent, exquisite art from the 1st world’s trash’,” Jan says. “He’s not saying trash is exquisite, but his art is. In terms of design, culture, understanding, being on the outside looking in, and the inside looking out, he has changed the dynamic of what African art is. It’s not about an African tradition that he grew up with; he’s created his own tradition.” Anatsui says he wanted to “draw connections between consumption, waste, and the environment”.

As an educator, it is easy to see how the study of this artist brings us into conversations about environmental advocacy and equity. It is a wake-up call to the abuse of economic power, delivered in the form of beauty.

Jan maintains that contemporary artists are key to gaining perspective of world interactions and our impact on others. She refers to Chinese artist Ai WeiWei, to the so-called Fauves (or “wild beasts”) who were derided by the French Academy when they broke away from tradition, and to Brazilian-born artist Nik Muniz, who used materials from the largest dump in the world to create portraits of the workers there.

Jan says “Anyone should have access to giving us a window into another way of looking at the world and art. Cultural equity is critical.” She maintains that telling children what a work of art “means” is monstrous. Instead, she says we should ask the child what story the art tells. What about it excites them? What do they dislike? “Our job is to help kids be open,” she says, “to help them see art as sort of a sacred puzzle.” In traditional art history, where you visit predictable eras and artists, the intense commentary on life as it is now, from broadly varied perspectives, is excluded. Jan likens traditional art history to taking the Interstate. “Even though you go faster,” she says, “sometimes you remember nothing of the trip. I like to take the back roads.”

ReOpening Schools Update
Although we were expecting Governor Cooper to announce the plans for ReOpening Schools yesterday, that announcement has been delayed. We continue to work through the details and logistics of the potential scenarios for educating our students for the new school year. In broad strokes, each plan has some advantages and some challenges as well as many details to consider.

Plan A-All students return to school buildings with minimal social distances

  • Health screenings for all staff and students before entering the school building
  • Large congregations of students are eliminated including cafeteria lunches, assemblies, dismissal procedures.
  • No field trips or visitors/volunteers in the school buildings
  • Students and Staff would wear masks unless he/she has an exemption.

Plan B- Only 50% of students would be allowed into the school building at one time with moderate social distancing.

  • Health screening for all staff and students before entering the school building
  • Students are scheduled on alternating days to limit class size to 50%.
  • Students learn with remote learning on days he/she is not at school
  • No field trips, volunteers, visitors, or congregation of students.
  • Students and Staff would wear masks unless he/she has an exemption.

Plan C- Remote Learning for all students

  • Students would not be permitted in the school building for instruction
  • Teachers would provide some live/recorded instruction using technology
  • Teachers would provide some learning activities to do at home not requiring technology.

For more detailed information and guidance, here is a link to the guidance document provided to schools: LightingOur Way Forward: North Carolina’s Guidebook for Reopening Public Schools.

We’re excited to introduce our new fourth grade teacher, Michelle Owusu. Michelle is a recent graduate of Fayetteville State University and lives in Winston-Salem. She completed her student teaching in a second grade classroom and is licensed K-6. We’re delighted to have her on the ABS team.

New Parent Orientation 
Save the Date- Wednesday, Aug 5 at 10am for the New K-4 Parent Orientation at ABS. This program is designed specifically for new families in grades K-4th at ABS to support your transition into ABS and to answer your questions and will be provided in a virtual meeting this year. Please mark your calendars and will send you a link soon!

Middle School Orientation
Save the Date-Wednesday, Aug 7 at 2pm for Middle School Orientation. For new parents (grade 5-8) and also for parents new to middle school. This program is designed to answer questions about how our middle school program works (grades 5-8) and what to expect. This will also be a virtual meeting and we’ll send you a link soon!

Special Visits
Educational research shows that the relationship between the student and his or her teacher is one of the most important factors in a student’s academic success. This critical relationship is enhanced by our small class size and our educators’ commitment to children. In support of the teacher/student relationship, our teachers will be offering a Special Visit before school begins. A Special Visit is simply an opportunity for your child to meet his or her teacher in a familiar setting, a chance to learn a bit about the class and what to expect in the coming school year. Due to Coronavirus Safety protocol, Special Visits will be set up to occur virtually, individual meetings at the school, or on the phone. This year’s scheduled days for Special Visits are August 13 and 14, 2020. Your child’s teacher will be contacting you to schedule a 15-20 minute appointment in early August.

Garden Volunteers Needed
Now that you’ve completed all our your own lawn and garden projects this past spring, please consider helping us out in the ABS gardens. Although we won’t all meet on the same day, the weeds are there everyday just waiting to be picked. If you are able to spend some time in the ABS gardens, wearing masks and socially distancing yourself, it would be greatly appreciated. You can log your volunteer hours directly into Helpcounter or send me an email and I can add them in. Thanks!

ABS July Board Meeting
The ABS Board of Directors will convene the June Board meeting on July 14, 2020 at 5:45pm using a virtual meeting platform. Board meetings are open to the public. If you would like to view the meeting, please email Principal Hollis for the link.

Around Town
Monica & Jerome International Dance Experience is a new company in our area, featuring a brother-sister team who are sharing what they learned over years of professional experience as performers and teachers. MJIDE offers international professional dance instruction while enhancing your academic skills in discipline and focus. Join them at www.MJIDE.com, or call (336) 803-6080 for more sign-up information. “Dream, See, Dance IT!!! with MJIDE”