As I walked down to the Lower School to observe art teacher & Visual Arts Department Chair Dana Dumont’s morning art class, memories rushed back from my one year in Collegiate’s Lower School. I remember loving the art room, and even though I didn’t come to Collegiate until fourth grade, I spent the majority of my time with Dumont. There was always an open stool available in the art room for any Lower Schooler that wanted to create, explore, or design. As I walked into the art room seven years later, it looked almost identical. Various paintings, sculptures, and designs covered the walls; bursts of color caught my eye from places all over the room.
From 7:50 to 8:10 a.m. every morning in the Lower School, second, third, and fourth graders can be found diligently working in Dumont’s art studio. This is a time to make “drawings, paintings, found-scrap sculptures, catch up on class art assignments, help create banners and other service projects, and assist with hallway art displays.” Dumont says that, “it is a wonderful part of their days,” and she loves watching the students work as they tackle new projects. Further inspiration for morning art came to her after attending the National Art Convention in March of this year. Art educators from all over the country gathered and talked about the social ideas that come along with art. Dumont states that the teachers preached the importance of teaching the students “how to make the world a better place,” and she attempts to do that through art. Morning art is a time she sets up for the students to creatively work towards making their world a better place.
Lower schoolers come storming into the art room around 7:55 a.m., eagerly racing around the room searching for their current projects. While most kids work on their own “independent” choice pieces, some tried to “get ahead in class,” as Henry—a second grader dressed in a bright green shirt with floppy brown hair—put it. Like Henry, many of the second graders use morning art to continue work on their puppet projects. Henry told me that they have been working on the puppets in class for about a week, but he and fellow second graders Linus and Logan wanted to get ahead in the morning. These second grade boys usually come to morning art, but especially when it “rains or is cold,” morning art seems to be a popular choice. While simultaneously working on his puppet, Linus also diligently sketched a choice drawing that morning. Head down and marker in hand, Linus drew “a space ship flying in space.” When I asked what he was going to call his masterpiece, Linus replied with, “a Space Ship.”
Other second graders were also working on drawings of their own. As I wandered over to a table of second grade girls, they told me they were all working on a birthday card for their friend, complete with a pink dolphin on the back. Anne and Ginny, two of the girls working on the card, told me that “they come to morning art almost every day” and that they “love art and the art room.” I noticed that some of the other girls were working on Easter-themed paintings, including drawings of Easter eggs and baskets.
Going along with the theme of the National Art Convention, the third graders were working on “robots for good” in which they had to think of ways that the robot could “benefit mankind/the world.” Although they weren’t very far in the process, some third grade boys had started building their robot that morning. Carter, a third grader with white blonde curls, told me that he “still has to add arms and stuff” to his robot, but he likes how it is coming along so far. Teddy and Reed are collaborating on a moving robot, complete with wheels, but they still have to add “a mini-robot inside the big one’s head.”
I noticed that other third graders, like Teddy and Addison, were working on tin punches that they have been creating just in morning art for the past couple of weeks. Addison comes to morning art almost every morning, and she loves that her friends can help with her art projects. A group of her friends sat at the same table and strung necklaces with beads made out of magazine clippings, “to help Addison out.”
The art room offers a collaborative space perfect for the Lower Schoolers to destress before a long day. As they learn to “make the world a better place” through their art, the Lower Schoolers are able to paint, draw, build, and design just about anything they want under Dumont’s guidance. Morning art offers the students an “open studio opportunity,” and if you are ever given the opportunity to witness it, get “ready for 20-50 students making who knows what!” If I were still in the Lower School, I can guarantee that I would be in the art room every morning!
All photos by Caroline Baber.