Sculptor Paris Alexander recently wrapped up a residency at the Lucy Daniels Center in Cary supported by a United Arts Council school project grant, which give schools the opportunity to work with teaching artists for in depth curriculum-based residencies.
For this residency, Alexander led children in grades K-5 in building garden-themed sculptures to adorn the fence around the Center’s garden. The school held a reception on June 7 for students to show their parents the final products and for parents to meet Alexander. According to Lucy Daniels Center director of education Deborah Mugno, the children were very excited to show off their work at the reception.
At the outset of the project, Alexander led a mini-workshop for teachers at the school so that they could create their own sculptures, which would hang alongside the children’s artwork. In addition to being enjoyable in its own rite, the teachers were more prepared to assist Alexander in leading the children’s workshop after creating their own sculptures.
Alexander asked teachers and students to think about a plant or animal that might be found in the garden when planning their sculptures. But ultimately he told the children that it didn’t matter if they created a sculpture of a car. And indeed, there was one pizza sculpture on the garden fence—a testament to the importance of individuality in any creative venture.
Alexander’s easygoing demeanor meant the students at the school, which serves children with emotional, mental and social challenges, felt comfortable working with him during the residency, despite the newness of the experience for many of them.
According to Alexander, “I am a dad; I understand. And I like working with groups sometimes overlooked.”
It was clear through their conversations with him, that the students had established an easy rapport. Even as they left the reception, the children used Alexander’s first name, casually saying, “Bye, Paris!” to him as they left the morning reception.
Mugno said, “We have had a wonderful experience with [Alexander] and he has been most gracious and understanding with our students.”
Alexander described students who may have initially been hesitant or skeptical of their abilities at the beginning of the residency becoming increasingly confident and eager to participate. “Sometimes when a student did not want to begin, it would just take watching a classmate sitting next to her working with the clay for a few minutes to change her mind.”
In other words, the work seemed less daunting and more fun once students realized it was accomplished in smaller steps. Ultimately, the children could not resist the calming, creative call of the clay.
Among the lessons learned by the students during Alexander’s residency, they learned patience with themselves and with the creative process.
“Students had to wait a few weeks between beginning their sculptures and holding the final product,” said Alexander.
In a world where "faster" and "immediate" can dominate arbitrarily, the arts teach the value of working toward a larger goal. Alexander’s residency at Lucy Daniels Center showcased the beauty of art and the the creative process. Although the Center’s learning environment may be specialized in many ways, it ultimately shares the same goal of preparing students for a world beyond its walls; and nothing helps attain that kind of preparation like the arts.
You can look for Alexander as a featured artist at Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? in November!
—Karla Heinen, communications coordinator