Week 4 with Graf Grrlz on the Rise, sidewalk chalk extravaganza!

It’s hard to believe, but we are almost done with the program. *sigh*

Anywho, this week was all about crews: what they are and mean for graffiti writers, why writers form them, what their purpose is, and of course…the girls decided what their crew names would be. They learned about Maripussy (well, the older ones because having 2nd graders say “pussy” didn’t really seem right), the Stick Up Girls, Crazis, Turronas, PMS (provoked many giggles), Girls on Top, and Few and Far. We talked about how being in an all-female crew might make you feel more empowered to keep painting because you are part of a community, and also  how you could feel equally disempowered because women are often really hard on each other. We talked about the importance of having each others backs, finding out who someone is before believing a rumor you might hear about them, and the concept of strength in numbers. We also talked about how gender might influence aesthetic choices and value systems ( they learned this after I explained what “aesthetics” are..”oooh, like how you decide to dress”). When I asked them to brainstorm their own crew names, they came up with:

PBC: PINK A BOO CREW
PJC: PINK JAGUARS aka PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY CREW
SGD: SASSY GOLDEN DIVAS CREW
DTM: DOING THE MOST CREW (I’m a big fan of this one)
H2O: HAVE TO OVERCOME CREW
LIP: LADIES IN POWER CREW (and this one)
SSC: SWEET ‘N SOUR CREW

There are more groups that we didn’t get to see this week, but this is a great start. To prepare them for the field trip to Brisky Gallery in Wynwood, we had them use chalk on black construction paper. At times it felt like nails on a chalkboard, but I did my best to power through. Ha.

We visited Brisky Gallery to see the Few & Far production from 2012 Basel. After the Gallery Director, Luis Valle, gave us a tour of the show “Eternal Reflection” we headed to the backyard (BTW, go see this show!!). So finally, we had the chance to talk about graffiti art in front of a real live wall! Once the girls got over the grass being tall and the many little bugs, they focused on what was in front of them–a gorgeous production composed of 13 separate pieces, woven together through color and shape. I walked them through each piece, explaining a little bit about each artist–and I have to say, they are getting pretty good at reading the letters! *swells with pride*

And then we all realized it was like 95 degrees and we were slowly dying. So we went back in, took a mini break and then grabbed some sidewalk chalk and they went to town. We had made photocopies of parts of the wall so the girls could look at them and try to mimic the style of the character or the piece with sidewalk chalk. Then Luis told us that not only could we draw on the sidewalk but also on the building next door! Woot! Some of them were too hot to focus, but others…well, they had a BLAST!

Graf Grrlz on the Rise, weeks 2 and 3!

I have no idea where time goes, but if you are following my blog you already know my posts are sporadic at best. So, I am #sorrynotsorry this update is way overdue since it is now week 4.

First, a few things I’ve learned from weeks 2 and 3 as a summer camp art instructor:

Lesson #1: Summer camp scheduling is a tad unpredictable, so be prepared to wing it!

Lesson #2: The amount of female “historical figures” young people can name has increased slightly since the last time I asked (which was probably when I had a 16 year old in a summer college class once). Also, it now includes Beyonce (#allhailqueenBey).

Lesson #3: 2nd-11th grade girls from Miami have a resounding response to nude female figures on walls: “EWWWWWWW”

Lesson #4: Art class comes second only to the pool. (Is there a better compliment? I think not.)

Depending on the groups, weeks 2 and 3 were a mixture of drawing on trains, working with stickers, and playing with fabric and ribbons. In addition to the planned lessons on gender politics and resistance, we tossed in a few impromptu lessons to keep all of the groups on the same schedule as much as possible. The impromptu lessons included a session on Shinique Smith (in which we made some bundles, bows, and what I deemed “cannolis”); a session on exploring the letter (in which they were to pick 1 letter from their tagname and “get weird with it”); and a style mimicking session (in which they responded to characters by drawing their own). On our longest days, we worked with upwards of 60 girls.

In the resistance sessions, we talked about how female writers can reclaim sexual imagery, support one another across oceans through online communities, and communicate political commentary…and why they might want to use their art to do those things. We talked about the use of colors, lines, and textures and how that might affect how the viewer responds to the work of writers including Injah (Rio), Shiro (Japan), Kif (Mexico), Stela (Montreal), Ivey (Australia). And finally, they worked on their “Hello My Name Is” stickers.

After I do the bulk of my mini lecture, we pass out the supplies and they get to work. Then for the second half of the class, we make art and talk about anything (and/or listen to music and rap/sing along). This is our “bonding” time. I ask them about their day and their other classes and we stumble into quite a few conversations that are heavily charged with issues like representation in relation to bodies and the politics of respectability. Sometimes, I’m stumped as to how to talk to them about some of these very complex issues. How do you adequately explain the Trans spectrum after a student refers to people as “drags” (she further explained she meant a “he/she”) beyond rearticulating the difference between sex and gender and the sexuality spectrum…after about 15 seconds you can see the glazed over eyes of confusion. You do your best, or at least that’s what I did. Also, Another example is when we asked why Injah’s or Pink’s  (Brick Lady specifically) nude figures grossed them out I received a variety of responses: “because she’s showing all her goodies and that’s nasty,” “it’s confusing cause we learned the opposite of that in abstinence class,” “her boobs are droopy, she needs to take care of that,” “I’d just get plastic surgery.” We talked about why breasts are gross, or why breasts in art is “ew,” in more than one class. In the end, we do our best to get them honestly talking about their opinions and have them respond through art making.

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