Friday, May 21, 2010

What's in your cave? Teen Arts Festival at Bergen Community College

Some years ago, My artist/Spanish teacher friend, Lule Seltzer, collaborated with me to create a class about art and its therapeutic powers.

The idea of Cave Painting came to us.

What were ancient people trying to to capture as they took materials from the earth to paint images of large animals on the cave walls? Were they trying to capture the spirit of their foes to control their fear?

Lule and I experimented with colors and music while we took our students on an imaginary journey to their own cave - what would their own cave contain? What fears would they project on this space?

Today, I am here at the Bergen Community College Teen Arts Festival in Paramus, New Jersey, now in its 35th year. It's a massive festival of the arts - dance, song, music and writing - everywhere! Students dance on the lawn, soak up sun and scribble away all day long.

I've taken the idea that Lule and I created and have developed a writing workshop for this day. I enjoyed this morning's session a whole lot. Using projections of cave paintings, I framed a space. Later, students drew their own fears on their own caves (sheets of paper) while music played (a group called "Painful leg injuries," no less). Next, we shared our work in guided pair conversations. Finally, pens flew across the page as students wrote. Later, we shared how fears can change into empowering images and passionate words.

Some students stood up to share their work and others held back. To give everyone a chance, I asked them to choose four words or a sentence from their pieces to speak out loud and we wove these words together in a kind of tapestry of fear, a bold statement of power. In the end, we posted the work on the cave wall of the classroom, the white board.

As usual, the students inspire me! I am the creator of the space, a humble recipient of their energy.

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