Individual Art Excels When It Becomes Part of a Group

   Mrs. Nicole Anderson, Bluffton Elementary and Middle School art teacher, is teaching more than just art to her classes: she is preparing them to work in teams and to use the strengths of each team member.
   Recently, Ellie Nickel, Lauren Swartzlander and Wes Brauen, seventh graders at Bluffton Middle School, won first, second and third places, respectively, in the Lions Club Peace Poster Project, “A Celebration of Peace.”
   This is an assignment that Anderson has made for the last seven years. So, she gives the directions, collects the results, gives them to judges, and the assignment is done. Not even close.
   First, she explains the contest. This is an international contest where the students “cannot use words, and all images and symbols should be appropriate for all people around the world.” To help to get the students started, the class visited the Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center at Bluffton University and spoke with the director, Louise Matthews.
   Then, according to Swartzlander, the students first spent several days sketching out four to six different ideas for their posters. After the sketches were complete, groups were formed, and the groups spent several days brainstorming and discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each of the sketches.
   This part of the process was especially fun for Ellie who used dancing figures to demonstrate celebration. “I got to work with my friends, and I got ideas from them for my poster.” She pointed out that looking at the ideas of her friends helped her because they shared the idea of “A Celebration of Peace” in ways other than she had thought about.
   Brauen noticed in the sketches and discussion that Ellie and he had the same idea, but they had each expressed it differently. He believes that of the three posters, his had the strongest message of world peace by expressing that everyone is equal through the use of many different colors of hands.
   Swartzlander focused on the word celebration by using fireworks and confetti. Through discussion, she discovered that there were different levels of peace and different ways to show peace and who is involved in peace. She elaborated that the process doesn’t happen overnight, “If you really work hard on something, you can make it look how you want it to look.”
   Once the posters were in process, Anderson hung the posters up and gave the entire class the opportunity to answer concerns the artist had and to provide input.
   The uniting thread through all of these posters was that the students claimed that the help of the others helped them to clarify how they wanted to approach the final poster.
   Anderson says, “I have students enter because it’s a perfect exercise in taking an abstract theme or message and making a statement through art. … Combining images, designing a compelling composition and creating a message about peace is a challenging, but satisfying accomplishment for these students. It also challenges them to think outside of themselves and view the world in a new way.”
   Yes, Mrs. Anderson, but your team approach also seems to teach them the value of incorporating the ideas of others into their own framework in a non-threatening atmosphere to achieve success.