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Students turn their experiences into art at Jubilee Park

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The class was silent.

Some of the fourth and fifth year students stared at the sheets of graph paper laid out in front of them. Others peeked at the children playing fours just outside the window of the Jubilee Park Community Center.

The children are here for the center’s summer camp. And Joshua King, the co-founder of the Dallas Aurora art group, runs art classes.

For two days, students from different grade levels will enter the classroom. Watching them create works of art on their own themes revealed about the creative process that we can all relate to.

First place for these fourth graders? Make a list of important moments in their lives, then draw timelines. Say something about any meaningful moment in your life, King asked. The birth of a younger brother, the loss of a beloved pet.

No one volunteered to speak.

King and the other instructors waited a few minutes. Then they sat at each of the student tables. As the adults descended to their level, several students seemed much more eager to discuss their life experiences. Some, however, were “too cool” to interact with the project.

We all sometimes have trouble getting started.

The adolescent class stands at the ends of their individual lines, which represent a significant point in their life “changed direction”.

Choose a path

All of the students were participating in what King calls “The Line Project,” an artistic exercise that asks participants to reflect on their lives and draw their own timeline. After writing down a number of significant life experiences, participants are asked to represent these moments in a network of interconnected lines. The longer lines are meant to represent more important life moments, the shorter lines the more mundane.

The second group to try it was made up of sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

These students became more engaged with the concept at the start of the course, and King was more willing in turn to pry information out of the kids, calling out those who didn’t raise their hands.

The concept seemed to fit teenagers better than younger students. The purpose of the class, according to the artist, was to have students reflect on significant experiences in their lives and to create a visible representation of how the trajectory of their timeline has changed due to certain events.

One of the teenagers, Angela, appreciated the opportunity to reflect on her experiences. Life, she says, is always “balanced between good and evil.”

She was quick to finish her list and diagram, focusing more on the graffiti-inspired signature she drew at the bottom of the page. She follows a number of street artists on Instagram and draws inspiration from them whenever she creates her own art.

Everyone makes art at their own pace, according to their own rules.

Jubilee Learning Center, guest artist

Aaron, 8, watches another student pull the tape to the desired length.

perfectly imperfect

First and second graders roared into the classroom, still bursting with energy after PE

King decided to take a different approach for this age group. He started the same way at the beginning, asking the class about the important moments in their lives.

All the hands in the room went up; with each voice begged the artist to appeal to them.

King started tracing the room on the wall with bright orange tape. He kept the enthusiastic students involved in the process, asking them to help him rip the tape once it reached a satisfactory length for the significance of the event.

Some students reveled in the process, laughing at their friends as they asked the artist to pull the tape as far as it went. King complied, taping the long strands of tape to the wall.

When the ten lines were placed on the wall and the group’s timeline was completed, King asked the class to follow the template he had created to create their own timeline. Naturally, the majority of children took a number of artistic liberties with their pieces.

Most students drew whatever they wanted. Characters from the “Among Us” video game appeared in several of the pieces, as did iconography from another popular game, “Fortnite.”

Some students preferred to draw more abstract pieces. When asked what their work was supposed to represent, all responded with a cheerful “I don’t know!”

Savannah, a 7-year-old girl at the camp, scrupulously followed the guidelines given to her. She chose not to use the rulers that were laid out at each table and instead drew all of her lines freehand.

“I like to draw, I got sketchbooks from camp,” she said. His vision of artistic creation is simple, but often forgotten as we move further and further away from childhood.

“You succeeded,” she said. “He doesn’t have to be perfect.”

It doesn’t matter how others might view your art as long as you are happy with it.

Jubilee Learning Center, chalk exercise

King and the teenagers recreate Project Line on the grass behind the community center.

life lessons

The teenagers returned to class for the second day of art lessons. King wanted to do a land-art project with the students, a large timeline on the grass behind the community center drawn with a cart dropping chalk dust.

King started the session by asking the teens to talk about some notable events from their past, as well as some possible goals for their future.

Each student named something in one of the categories, ranging from getting a first pet to wanting to go to a Cowboys game. One of the students said he wanted to go to “the universe”.

“Do you want to go to college?” asked one of the instructors. The student explained that he meant Universal Studios, the theme park, to the delight of everyone in the class.

After collecting a memory or aspiration from all the teenagers, the group walked outside to the grass in the park behind the building. The artist demonstrated how to use the chalk pen and explained that the length of each line should be equivalent to the importance of the thought. Then he let the kids take over.
The students were all excited to use the machine, smiling as they each drew their lines.

A teenager’s memory is that his grandfather died. They were very close. The student stoically advanced with the chalk machine, stopping at a point where he thought the line was satisfactory. His line was longer than all the others.

“I think it’s huge to introduce kids to as many different creative processes as possible, because you never know what’s going to connect with an individual,” King said.

“I think kids can handle complicated concept ideas,” he said, without having to “necessarily change or modify your work for younger audiences. Speak to them as clearly and honestly as possible.

When we make any type of art, we tap into key moments in our lives, the challenges we’ve faced, the obstacles we’ve overcome.

No matter how old we are, we can enjoy being creative and understanding the power that art holds.