In the midst of the snowstorm today we had Diversity Day at school. For this day every teacher in the Middle School plans some sort of activity/ workshop that showcases diversity in whatever way s/he desires. Students may watch short movies, do role plays, read short stories, write poetry, sing, explore comics and cartoons, look at advertising and the media, all having to do with a variety of diversity issues. Students have the opportunity to take 5 different workshops during the day.
My session was a drawing workshop geared to prove that when we draw, we don’t draw what we really see, but are culturally programmed to draw what we think we see. And so it is in our interactions with each other. We often see other people in categories preconceived in our heads.
The intention of the workshop was to break the habits we have around seeing, using drawing as our methodology. So we drew with our non-dominant hand, we held the pencil in an unconventional way, we looked at what we were drawing 100% of the time without looking at the paper on which we were drawing, we kept the pencil on the paper without lifting it off, we drew upside down. We even used mystery bags (photo above) with objects inside which we could only feel with our hands and then try to render the object in as much detail on the paper as possible. This was all in the service of breaking the stereotypes we are accustomed to using, learning to see in a new way and the by-product— actually learning to draw.
We had only 50 minutes for the workshop so it was a bit rushed. For the most part, the kids were silent and focused as they worked, especially in the last half of the class, after they began to let go of their fear and started to feel more comfortable with risk.
Frankly, I miss teaching art.