International School Artist In Residence — at Carol Morgan School

Christopher Agostino’s StoryFaces

Artist In Residence Programs for International Schools

Please take a look at the video Carol Morgan School put together regarding my Artist in Residence program there, originally posted at ow.ly/MS0Wv.

In April of 2015 I was at Carol Morgan School in Santo Domingo, DR for two weeks, doing StoryFaces  performances and workshops on visual storytelling with grades K – 12. The length of the residency allowed me to offer a wide range of options for the content of the programs, and, guided by input from the faculty, I designed separate programs for the Elementary, Middle and High School students – scroll down for descriptions of each program.

—-   Elementary School  —–

 Assembly Programs and “My Amazing StoryFace” Workshop

I asked to begin the Elementary residency with StoryFaces assembly programs for all the students. Seeing a live performance in a large audience generates excitement in the school for the full residency, and I tailor my story selection to set up what I will be doing with each grade in subsequent workshops.

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With the Elementary grades my focus was on exploring why we tell stories, how stories fill our lives, and how we can share our own story. In the performances I told mostly Fables and Animal Tales, and in the follow-up workshops with the youngest kids (K-1st) I showed them how to use their hands and faces (without any facepainting) to turn themselves into some of the animals from the tales. For grades 2-5 we did the “My Amazing StoryFace” workshop, which gets students to create a visual story about themselves through words and pictures, based on one of my original stories (see The Amazing Face Video) — including the instruction that each student was to take their visual story home to “show and tell” it to a family member, since one of the tenets of my arts-in-education programs is that stories need to be shared to keep them alive.

—-   Middle School   —-

Assembly Programs and Teacher Workshop

The Middle School grades each had a separate full length assembly program. These StoryFaces performances included a couple of the same stories the younger grades might have heard along with additional, different stories for each grade, featuring Hero Tales for the Middle School audiences. During a school visit I will tell many different tales in performances, as I like to get the students talking to each other, and to their siblings, about what stories they each saw, and sharing one they’ve heard. My performances have a “kinetic art” effect that extends beyond the assembly, as the volunteers I have painted in a show walk through the school throughout the day and other students see them and wonder what story they are. With the Middle School faculty (and also the Elementary faculty) I had the opportunity to do a fun workshop about my visual approach to performing stories, including some physical theatre performance techniques we all did together and the background for how I developed telling tales with facepainting.

—-   High School   —-

“Spirit Healing Mask” Design and Facepainting Workshops

SpiritHealingMask_CA-classCreatedExample_1504-cFor the 9th and 12th grades I did a very different program, doing two workshops with each class. The first workshop was a special presentation on the cultural use and significance of masks (based on the material in my book and my “Before Cave Walls…” program), which led into the students designing a “Spirit Healing Mask” — this is a design task I’ve developed to get students to work on communicating information visually, through signs and symbols, based on a traditional approach to mask design, and in reference to the role of masks in some cultures to represent ancestors and other powerful spirits that protect the people. In the second workshop, the students painted their mask designs onto each other’s faces.

“Spirit Healing Mask” Design Workshop: To start, I ask each student to identify some social concern they would like to help solve — it can be anything, from the obvious ones such as “ending war” to smaller scale concerns, such as “helping stray dogs”. Next they determine what “powers” a “healing spirit” would need to achieve this task, and I present this via the idiom of modern superheroes —i.e., would your Healing Spirit need to be able to fly in order to end war all around the world?  The students then choose a color or graphic symbol to represent each of the powers or “attributes” their character has, and they design the mask using those symbols — this step moves the design beyond an illustrative approach towards symbolism and abstraction, as the mask will communicate information purely through colors and graphics, giving students an experiential understanding of the thinking process that underlies visual arts, including modern art, and also allows any student to make a successful design regardless of their drawing skills.

BlackBoardInstructions_designingSpiritMask_1504-cThe completed designs can be the basis for making a physical mask, which some schools have the students do with their art teachers after my visit. The process can also include a writing assignment —  the 9th grade students wrote essays to accompany their designs, in which they were to describe the social concern, find media links to examples of this problem, and develop a storyline for how their Healing Spirit will solve the problem.

Facepainting Workshop: Masks are meant to be worn, it completes the transformation the mask is created to achieve. In the 2nd workshop, I demonstrated how to use makeup to paint a face, and then the students worked in pairs as each student painted their Spirit Healing Mask design onto their partner’s face, and then was painted by their partner in return.

SpiritHealingMaksWorkshop_a_1504-cEveryone had a lot of fun in these sessions, and it was exciting to see full classes transformed in these strange and powerful designs. In a facepainting workshop the interaction between the students is as important as the results — the goal is not to create great faces, it is to explore this collaborative process and their own creativity, and to experience the transformation of self-identity that comes with wearing the mask. I encourage the students to wear the painted face through the school day, so their peers can see it, and to know the “story” of the Healing Spirit they have become. SpiritHealingMaksWorkshop_b2_1504-cThe whole process was documented in photographs, including posed images of the finished faces which the school planned to display after my visit. A great advantage of using symbol-based designs is that there is no concrete expectation for what each face should look like, since these are invented symbolic beings, so success doesn’t depend on a student’s painting skills.

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—-   My Goal for Residencies   —-

Plus: Bringing Some Magic into a School

StoryFaces offers a uniquely flexible platform for arts-in-education programs, incorporating Language Arts, Social Studies, and Visual Arts in an entertaining format that captures students’ attention and therefor allows me to generate real educational content, at any grade level. I want to inspire students in my performances, to get them thinking about a wider range of possibilities to communicate who they are, to see the connection between their lives today and the full human experience expressed in our stories and our art. To help them find a way to share their own story.

An important part of my role in a school is also to share my personal story, to let students see what it means to be a professional artist — how it can be a valid career path to follow your own dream and make your own way — and to talk with students about the kind of work I do before the performance they see — what a working artist’s process is like. I talk often about my love of books and how much my career has depended on the reading I do, how it has led me on this adventurous exploration of world cultures.

I also like to bring a little magic into a school in a very old-fashioned way. Part of the role of masks and transformational makeup in traditional cultures was to show the people that forms can change, that to understand the true nature of something you must look beyond form — that we may all be more than we appear to be. I think this is a valuable, positive insight to share with kids, and that they experience this in some small way when they see a classmate visually transformed into a tiger or an ancient hero, and as they see students with painted faces incongruously walking through the school hallways.

See the new video: What Is A StoryFace?

Learn about all we do at:  agostinoarts.com

StoryFaces — Visual Arts and Mask Workshops

Follow-up a StoryFaces Assembly Program with Classroom Workshops

Christopher’s surprising performance allows him to introduce students to complex educational concepts in an entertaining way in follow-up workshops for grade levels 2 – 12. The unique combination of visual and language arts at the heart of StoryFaces exemplifies using multiple strategies to communicate your story and demonstrates the power of art to convey social information, to retain and synthesize traditional wisdom, and to inspire — making this an ideal vehicle for workshops developing communication, visual storytelling and critical thinking skills. A variety of programs are available including mask design workshops and interdisciplinary programs combining ELA, Visual Arts and Social Studies in which students write stories and apply critical thinking to synthesize these stories into visual mask designs. Programs include:

•  My Amazing StoryFace Workshop  – telling a story through words and art 

•  Designing Tribal Masks – using symbology to bring ideas to life

•  Create Your Personal Superhero – a motivational mask arts program

and two special programs for Middle and High School:

             •  From Masks to Modern Art – a fascinating art history program 

             •  World Theatre Makeup – for theatre, art and fashion students

Classroom programs can be custom designed  in consultation with art teachers to fit a school’s curriculum goals.

*** Professional development workshop programs also available for teachers ***

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Workshop and Demonstration Programs include:

My Amazing StoryFace Workshop

This activity gives students their own experience in visual storytelling, as they create an original story starring themselves, first through a drawing exercise, and then as a written story meant to be told  — based on one of my original stories (see The Amazing Face Video). For the drawing, students use a special Drawing Form in which they draw a cartoon picture of themselves in the story — just like the image I create in my performance.    Grade Levels: In Elementary schools, grades 2 and up have been able to complete the StoryFace drawing and a simple written story in a single workshop session.  In Middle and High Schools the concept of placing a portrait of yourself into an illustrated story can continue into a visual art project by incorporating other media, digital art, animation, etc. Please see the MyAmazingStoryFace_TeachersGuide  for full information.

Designing Tribal Masks

This project gives students an experiential understanding of the traditional approach to art in tribal cultures as they apply critical thinking to create an animal mask design using symbols to signify the animal — in a way that even elementary students can understand. This “mask-concept” approach moves the design process away from realism and illustration, into an exploration of communicating through symbolic art and abstraction, and can be a vehicle for creating original mask designs for students with any level of art skills. Grade Levels: Grades 4 and up have been able to complete a pencil sketch design for a Tribal Animal Mask in a single session, this design can be the basis for a mask-making project in subsequent art classes. Please see TribalMaskProject_TeachersGuide  for full information.

Creating Your Personal Superhero — Spirit Healing Masks

This is a unique interdisciplinary workshop program I’ve developed to get students to work on using critical thinking to synthesize and communicate information visually, through signs and symbols, in reference to the traditional role in some cultures of Spirit Masks that allow performers in rituals to represent ancestors and other powerful healing spirits that protect the people — kind of like our superhero movies. For Grade Levels 6 and up: To start, I ask each student to identify some social concern they would like to help solve — it can be anything, from the obvious ones such as “ending war” to smaller scale concerns, such as “helping stray dogs”. Next they determine what “powers” they would need as a “healing spirit” to achieve this task, and I present this via the idiom of modern superheroes —i.e., would you need to be able to fly in order to end war all around the world?  The students then choose a color or graphic symbol to represent each of the powers or “attributes” their character has, and they design their Personal Superhero mask using those symbols — this step moves the design beyond an illustrative approach towards symbolism and abstraction, as the mask will communicate information purely through colors and graphics, giving students an experiential understanding of the thinking process that underlies visual arts, including modern art, and also allows any student to make a successful design regardless of their drawing skills. The process can also include a writing assignment —  for example, students can write essays to accompany their designs, in which they describe the social concern, or find media links to examples of this problem, and develop a storyline for how their Personal Superhero/Healing Spirit will solve the problem. Please see SpiritHealingMask_DesignForm

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From Masks to Modern Art — for Middle and High Schools

Picasso/Nuba — a synthesis of a Picasso cubist portrait and a traditional design of the Southeast Nuba of Sudan

Picasso/Nuba — a synthesis of a Picasso cubist portrait and a traditional design of the Southeast Nuba of Sudan

This is a unique and fascinating program giving students a vehicle for understanding the origins of Modern Art by exploring how artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Klee found inspiration in the masks, sculptures and bodyarts of cultures in Africa and Oceania as they sought to create more powerful art forms with greater social impact — what the art historians call “Primitivism in Modern Art”. After viewing African sculptures in the Trocadero Musuem, Paris in 1907, Picasso is reported to have said: “Men had made those masks and other objects for a sacred purpose…At that moment I realized that this is what painting was all about…it’s a form of magic…a way of seizing power…When I came to this realization, I knew I had found my way.”

Art changed at the beginning of the 20th century in large part because these early Modern Artists saw that in traditional cultures art was not confined to being beautiful or decorative, but rather that traditional art and artists played a vital role in maintaining the social fabric of the community — that art could have the power to communicate complex social and political ideas and help make a better world.

Christopher Agostino has also explored this seminal moment in art history through a dramatic series of fine art body paintings: Modern Primitive Art

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World Theatre Makeup — for Theatre, Art and Fashion Students

From the very beginning of human culture we have used makeup and masks to transform our appearance and create a new identity. As ancient ritual evolved into theatre, makeup remained as the way for an actor to present an identity beyond their normal self. It is especially evident in non-western theatre, such as the Chinese Opera or Japanese Kabuki in which fantastically painted faces transform performers into gods, demons, heroes and all kinds of creatures to bring myths to life. Today, traditional designs are a source for creating theatrical magic in productions like Julie Taymor’s Lion King (with makeup based on Maasai body art) and in the fantastic special effects makeup that brings aliens and superheroes to life in Hollywood movies. Christopher Agostino uses makeup and mask art from world cultures to present the story of this fundamental art from ancient origins to modern theatre in this fascinating performance/lecture illustrated by his amazing facepainting on audience volunteers.

The participants from a Transformational Makeup lecture at the U.S. Institute of Theatre Technology Conference (USITT) in Houston, 2008.

The participants from a Transformational Makeup lecture at the U.S. Institute of
Theatre Technology Conference (USITT) in Houston, 2008.

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Transformation Facepainting for Arts-In-Education Events

Our professional company of artists present facepainting in an educational context using styles based on World Masks, Tribal Faces, Native American Totem concepts or cultural traditions from regions around the world, such as Dia De Los Muertes or Amazon Indians. The same artists seen at the Bronx Zoo and Tri-State area events can facepaint students to create a uniquely memorable cultural experience that goes far beyond how much fun they will have. Events can be tied into assembly programs and to specific cultural regions or areas of Social Studies.

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Makeup Artists for School Theatrical Productions

Transformation Facepainting for a school production of the Lion King

Transformation Facepainting for a school production of the Lion King

Our artists are also available to paint the faces of student performers for theatre productions and other special events. Bringing in professional artists is a thrilling experience for a young actor and a great confidence boost that makes a school production extra special.

 

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The Have You READ It? Game Show — the Game to Get Kids Thinking and Talking About Great Books

 

The Have You READ It? Game Show, hosted by Bob Bookmark and Rita Digest, is our very playful spoof of a TV Quiz Show about books that is part of every Bodacious Book Show assembly program.

For more than fifteen years, our Bodacious Book Shows have been a featured part of PARP and reading programs at hundreds of Elementary schools. Educators, administrators and parents have seen that the fun approach we bring to books is an effective tool for motivating reluctant readers. Our Bodacious Book Shows work because they help students recall the fun they’ve had with the books they’ve read; help them feel good sharing their reading experiences with their fellow students; and entice them to read more by making everything about books fun and exciting — and an integral element of the success of these programs is “The Have You READ It? Game Show” which gets the entire audience thinking and talking about great books.

Great books make great readers. Discovering that you love a book and want to read it again can begin a lifelong habit of reading. It’s important to expand and reinforce a young reader’s relationship with the books they’ve read through experiential activities that actualize the joy inherent in reading good books. We first created the Bodacious Book Show with a New York State grant to support library reading programs and included this game show component to get kids to share their excitement about books they’ve read and hear about other great books they might love.

Bob Bookmark

Hosts Bob Bookmark and Rita Digest play The Have You READ It? Game with the entire audience all at once — rather than just getting a few students on stage as contestants. We get the whole audience raising their hands to answer questions and even shouting them out when it’s a classic book that everyone knows. The questions range from ones we know that all the students will know (like “What kind of eggs does Sam like with his ham?”) to some tough ones that only the better readers will know (“Who lives in London at 221B Baker Street?”) — because we want to make everyone feel good about the books they’ve read AND give kudos to the best readers, like the 5th grader we saw in one audience getting high fives from her classmates because she knew the answer was “Sherlock Holmes.”

Rita Digest

The competition of a game show is an effective tool for maximizing audience participation, though at the same time we don’t ever want to make a student feel like a loser when we’re talking about reading and books, so the questions are crafted to suit the grade and reading level of each audience and we always make sure all the students are winners by how we set up the teams: for school day assembly programs we divide the audience into two teams, the students vs. the teachers (or kids vs. their parents for family audiences). Yes, the students always win, but we do keep the teachers engaged with some playful questions just for them — while never putting them on the spot. The whole show is played strictly for laughs, with bells and whistles, special bonus questions and comic game show touches like our “Wheel of Reading” and “Name that Animal.”

What a kid reads is as important as how much, so in our assembly programs we focus on tried and true children’s classics and exciting multicultural and adventure stories, with Have You READ It? Game Show questions that draw on special reading lists we’ve devised  in consultation with teachers and librarians for each of the 3 different versions of our Bodacious Book Shows.

Learn More about The Bodacious Book Show — including flyers describing each version 

Book Show 1—The Classics

Book Show 2 —The World Tour

Book Show 3—Nature Tales & Poetry

Teachers, PTAs and Students agree these shows really motivate kids to read!

To learn more about all of our programs and performances:  http://www.agostinoarts.com