Hands-on Art: Artifact and Industry

March 25, 2016 by

Art-in-Ed resident Laura Manfredi and studio intern Mary Gordon lead a demonstration on monotype techniques.

In January and February, local elementary and middle school students had the opportunity to visit WSW and create work in our silkscreen, etching, and papermaking studios. The students had a blast, and we felt invigorated by their endless energy and enthusiasm. Classes were led by our Art-in-Education residents, who traveled far and wide to work and teach at WSW, as well as local artists who return every session to guide these young artists.

Fourth graders from Edson Elementary School learned about local history through the lens of industry and transportation. The students explored different modes of transportation and created situations in which these modes may be used for different goods and services, both real and imaginary.

Italian artist Laura Manfredi, who joined us as an Art-in-Ed resident, took fourth graders through the monotype process, which allowed them to use paper stencils and draw directly into fresh ink with various materials such as cotton swabs. Former WSW intern, Paige Simpson, taught in the silkscreen studio, where students learned how to flood a screen, print onto paper, and register multiple layers on top of each other. Both teachers encouraged the students to represent different modes of transportation, which resulted in fantastical images of boats, cars, hot air balloons, tractors, and more!

In the papermaking studio, Tara Hagen created maps with the fourth graders. These young artists each made work that represented a journey from point A to point B and had to consider the elements that make a map exciting, including obstacles and abstract symbols.

paper map005

Handmade paper map by a fourth grade Edson student.

Eighth graders from Miller Middle School were presented with the challenge of identifying “artifacts”—objects with an unknown purpose—and creating narratives for their mysterious objects. These projects encouraged the students to use abstract thinking and creative problem solving.

Cheyenne Mallo guided eighth graders through the papermaking process. After learning how to beat pulp and pull sheets, the students used paint, stencils, and other materials to create maps that imagined where their artifacts may have come from. As a final project, the students worked in groups to create huge collaborative maps from the handmade paper.

Art-in-Ed resident Megan Duffy taught the eighth graders drypoint etching as another way to interpret their artifacts. The students then took these etched plates and placed them within a monotype landscape that resulted in a rich, textured picture plane. Meanwhile, Artist’s Book resident Megan Piontkowski and her students created multi-layered silkscreen prints to imagine scenarios in which their strange artifacts could be used.

Judging by the feedback from the students, their time here was valuable, inspiring, and a lot of fun. Aidan, a fourth grade from Edson Elementary School, explains it perfectly: “My studio experience was one of the best experiences I ever had. As I took my first step into the studio, my brain gave me so many ideas.”

The series of field trips is an artistic break not just for the students; as Edson teacher Louise Lefkovits writes, “I have had the fortune of visiting WSW many times with students over the past 16 years. My visits always leave me a more creative person.”

While the students had an unforgettable time opening their minds to the possibilities of printmaking and papermaking, the instructors themselves were also inspired. Paige Simpson feels refreshed by the exploratory nature of the kids’ artmaking: “It is such a thrilling process to teach silkscreen because the excitement of each student’s first print morphs into experiments for every following print. This reminder helps inspire my own practice to keep excitement alive by continuous experimentation.”


A fourth grade Edson student proudly displays her finished monotype.


Laura Manfredi took note of the young people’s confidence when making art: “The fourth graders are still very instinctive while drawing. It seems they’re not scared by the opinion of other people on what they’ve drawn.”

Don’t take our word for it – see for yourself the amazing results from our latest Hands-on Art session. Join us on Friday, April 1st from 5-7pm for an opening reception at the Cioni Administration Building!