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Tobin Center pilots arts residency program at Lamar

Lamar Tobin Arts IntegrationOne by one, the students in Emily Gonzalez’s first grade class came forward to show their artwork. They had created abstract pieces, inspired by Wassily Kandinsky, using shapes and color to convey emotion.


Artists showed their work and, guided by Barbara Hand, a Tobin Center for the Performing Arts teaching artist, each shared the inspiration behind the piece and what they were trying to convey.


Then, the discussion began.


Prompted with the stems “I like,” “I notice,” or “?” classmates, at six and seven years old, gave commentary, meaningful feedback relevant to the art. 


Then, everyone celebrated with a Goldfish snack.


It was the eighth and the final session for Hand’s “Feeling Shapes: A Study of Geometry and the Creation of Abstract Art” residency at Lamar Elementary, part of the Tobin Center’s Arts Integration Program.


The Tobin program piloted at Lamar this year. This new resource builds on the Tobin Center professional development that classroom teachers can take on how to integrate art, adding a residency-based program where teaching artists can go into a school and integrate arts education into an existing core curriculum.


“Classroom teachers can easily integrate the arts into their curriculum, finding the places where art forms and curricular concepts naturally align,” Dr. Kimberly Stephenson, Director of Education at The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, said. “Through the Tobin Center Teaching Artists program, teachers now can bring in a professional who, through the multiple sessions of the residency, can take a deep dive into both art form and academic content. These experiences are richer, allowing students to engage with the artists, talk with them, and be inspired by them while creating deep and nuanced learning experiences.  These residencies also allow teachers to become learners, deepening relationships with their students as they collaborate during each session.”


Hand’s residency, which concluded April 26, was her third at the Lamar campus this year, working with first and second grades. Another artist, Tammy Frazier, conducted a theatre arts residency integrated within a third-grade science curriculum. The teaching artists were trained by the Kennedy Center.


For Hand, it’s been a great way to continue giving back to education after retiring in 2021 after teaching for 23 years. 


“When The Tobin invited me to work for them as a teaching artist, I saw it as a path to share with students and teachers the joy and effectiveness of using visual arts, drama, creative movement, or music to explore the core curriculum areas of education,” Hand said. “Each time I use this residency I see growth in student ideas. I want them to discover how ideas we study in math are used in other parts of our lives, but also build more understanding about the ideas.”


Her four-week residency with Gonzalez’s class featured eight lessons progressing through the use of line, polygons, 3-D shapes, Kandinsky’s work, and creating and sharing the meaning of art. Though the students only had eight sessions with Hand, Gonzalez said the results were impressive.


“Students were able to elaborate on their understanding of the shapes and how attributes define each shape, but still see how the shapes can look different,” Gonzalez said. “They attend art classes on campus, but their use of the abstract art vocabulary was new. They have a better awareness of how the shapes, lines, and colors can be used to make art that doesn’t represent something.”


The students also got to work together, collaborating on projects and creating group feedback on the last day. 


“Students were able to collaborate with one another and carry dialogue about their artwork and the feelings portrayed,” Gonzalez said. “The art in itself created a relatable experience for us.”


The students enjoyed the process too.


“I feel happy that you came here and I liked the polygon designs,” one first grader told Ms. Hand on the last week.  


The program is part of the Tobin Center’s Generation NEXT Initiative, which connects education and the arts, promoting creative classrooms and culturally relevant learning. The program believes creative empowerment is central to a 21st century education. Generation NEXT removes barriers to arts participation by providing inclusive and diverse educational and artist experiences to more than 20,000 annually. Based on the success at Lamar, they hope to expand the teaching artist program into more campuses next year.


“Here at Generation NEXT, we believe in giving all students the ability to access the art and we anticipate our Tobin Center Arts Integration Program to grow throughout other schools in the San Antonio community,” Melanie Vaughan, Educational Coordinator at The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, said. “We are expanding our roster of Tobin Center Teaching Artists next year to meet this need, training for a new cohort of artists in the Fall of 2023. Our Tobin Center Teaching Artists embody our Generations NEXT’s mission’s statement of powerful art, powerful education, and excellence in both.”

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