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Teachers and Students Go on Adventures in Art

by Natalie Goodnow, Artistic Associate

Theatre Action Project (TAP) teaching artists Frank Nappi and Lindsay Palmer had the unique opportunity to craft linked curricula for their 2nd grade after school classes at Hornsby-Dunlap Elementary. They focused on the work of four artists: Frida Khalo, Rosa Bonheur, Salvador Dali and Faith Ringgold.

Actor Frank Nappi guided the students through an interactive process drama framing the entire semester as an urgent quest. He began the semester by showing students a short video which he filmed with another Teaching Artist, Miss Kate Shaw. She was in disguise as the mysterious super villain, “Z” who explained that he had magically captured teachers from the students’ very own school and transported them into famous paintings by artists such as…you guessed it– Frida Kahlo, Rosa Bonheur, Salvador Dali, and Faith Ringgold! Z cackled that the students had no hope of ever rescuing their teachers, because they knew nothing about art!

After seeing this video, the students could not wait to prove the mysterious Z wrong!  With visual artist Lindsay Palmer, the students:

  • Learned about the historical context in which these artists lived.
  • Asked big questions about why and how these artists engaged in discussions of activism about the social issues of their time.
  • Created their own artwork inspired by Kahlo, Bonheur, Dali, and Ringgold.

Back with Mr. Frank, the students engaged in narrative pantomime and improvisatory play to further explore the artists’ work. Using just some tape lines on the floor, and a lot of imagination, the students crafted a magical airplane that could journey straight into the paintings themselves, where Mr. Frank used narrative pantomime to guide students through the worlds of the paintings, their sights, sounds, smells, and textures, their people and places, and then finally (through the power of improvisatory play, also known as make believe) to rescue their captured and beloved teachers.

I’ll venture to say that the students retained much more historical knowledge than they would have had they been taught it in another way. The arts-based teaching strategies gave them a compelling need to learn that information, and also fun and hands-on ways to learn. They also learned social-emotional skills such as teamwork, confidence, and leadership, as they strategized how to work together to create these works of art, and to rescue their teachers.

And that’s how it works! Theatre Action Project uses the creative arts to activate the social, academic, and emotional development of young people. In school, after school, in our communities, every day!

Special thanks to Teaching Artists Frank Nappi and Lindsay Palmer for all your hard work this semester, and for ACE Afterschool Program Coordinator Jennifer Corrigan for your support!

About creativeactionaustin

We are based in Austin, Texas and reach more than 16,000 young people every year through our unique blend of theatre and education programs.Our programs expose young people to critical social problems and offer opportunities for them to creatively think about how they can be a part of solutions to these problems. Creative Action is a unique blend of art and education – for us, the two are intertwined. We believe that using the arts as a teaching method provides a fun, engaging and inspiring way to learn – it incorporates the whole mind and body.

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