20 Neighborhoods at Center on Halsted

Teaching artist Veronica Stein tell us about the workshops at Center on Halsted

June 30

“We had a fabulous first day at COH. For one exercise I asked the participants to pick an object from the found materials we provided and to tell a story about it.  Everyone was super creative.  I had each participant write their story on a brown paper bag and place their item inside. I plan to go back to them with the participants in week 3.

I demonstrated gel medium transfer technique and then had participants create an assemblage piece using jewelry boxes and the objects we provided. We also have a Spanish speaker and thus a language barrier.  With the exception of the release form, all other documents are in English.  She left when we were doing our “Where I’m From” poems and immediately I put 2 and 2 together.  Her friend and fellow participant said she would encourage her to come back – this woman is an amazing jewelry artist and we need her in our class! Other than that things went swell.  Everyone left excited and eager to return.  As an instructor that’s the greatest gift.

July 7

“I am working to reduce the self-doubt many experience in regards to their artistic abilities.  As such, I encouraged participants to listen carefully to their intuition, for the conscious and sub-conscious minds maintain an intimate relationship.  I qualify the sub-conscious as the creative informant to the conscious mind which subtly directs the hands that create.  This conversation guided us into a discussion on how we interpret our worlds as guided by our “ways of seeing”.

René Magritte – The Key to Dreams, 1930

Building upon Surrealist artist Rene Magritte’s representation a horse, a clock, a water pitcher and a suitcase in The Key of Dreams (1930) painting, John Berger discusses the “always-present gap between words and seeing”.  Berger posits, “seeing comes before words.  The child looks and recognizes before it can speak…the relationship between what we see and what we know is never settled”.  One of my favorite texts, Berger’s book explores how representation is never fixed, and how an individual chooses to visually represent a subject is unique to an individual’s “way of seeing”.

I asked each participant to explain their creative process for designing the introductory assemblages we created last week out of small white jewelry box and available found objects which I provided.  As, I only allow participants 20 minutes to create their assemblage, I learned for most their creative decision making process relied primarily upon intuition.  One participant created an assemblage at home using a found tin Altoids container (see attached image).  Her found materials included paper and yard; the sculpture she created was incredible.

I then asked each participant to explain the meaning behind the 4 found objects they brought relating to their identity.  This lent an intriguing storytelling process.


We reviewed the work of Romare Bearden, Joseph Cornell, Betye Saar and several reference books on the art of Assemblage.  In addition I assigned an impromptu writing assignment for “homework”, asking participants to a.) discover a found object; b) use this found object as writing palate (stressing under no circumstance could store bought paper be used); c.)throughout their daily activities observe the objects which surround them; and d.) journal about different ways of seeing these objects.

I showed participant my goose bumps which at several times abruptly appeared when I was moved by their “ways of seeing” which gave us a good laugh.  The creativity participants express continues to excite me.”


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