Toyota Family Learning art project brings families together

Guest post by Amanda Evans, facilitator, and Sallie Brown, coordinator, at Milwaukee Environmental Sciences Charter School, a Toyota Family Learning community

We invited Milwaukee Environmental Sciences Charter School students and their parents/guardians to use their words to create portraits of one another for a recent Toyota Family Learning project.

IMG_4186The goal of the project was to create an emotionally impactful representation of why we are all here. Those we love and care for were reflected on and celebrated for their individuality. It gave parents/guardians and their children a chance to really look at and understand the people in their life and the deeper meaning they have.

IMG_4197Local author and artist, Andrea Skyberg led the family participants in this art activity. She works with our partner Arts@Large and helped create the artwork that adorns the front hallway of our school. The parents/guardians loved working with Andrea, so we invited her back to do another project, and we’re so happy we did.

To start this project, Andrea gave both the parents/guardians and children a writing prompt, a series of questions designed to help parents/guardians think deeply about their child or children and their personality. Separately, the children were asked the same questions about their parents/guardians.

IMG_4192When both the parents/guardians and children wrapped up the writing prompt, parents/guardians were given a sketching of their children a sketching of their parent or guardian. Prior to this family learning night, our facilitators had taken photos of all participating individuals and shared them with Andrea, who then took the photos and created enlarged sketches of each.

Andrea asked participants to think about the words they had come up with and how they might incorporate these descriptors on the portrait, along with different patterns or designs that could help reflect the individual they were representing. For example, one mother wanted to use bubble letters and designs with circles to represent her daughter’s outgoing, bubbly personality. Another parent/guardian wanted to use different shades of pink throughout the image since it was her daughter’s favorite color.

IMG_4187Each person then began creating their masterpiece. Some parents/guardians had a tough time starting the project, because they felt their art skills were not up to par; however, Andrea, their peers, and our facilitators encouraged these individuals to embrace their unique artistic talents. As they began writing the words, their fears subsided and their love for their subject took center stage.

While work on the project progressed, you could hear a pin drop.

If participants wanted to add color to their piece, they were asked to flip the image over and color the backside. Since the paper was transparent, the color came through, but the words were still the star of the piece.

IMG_4200When everyone was finished, Andrea took the art pieces to her studio where they were framed. The final products were given to our participants as a Toyota Family Learning graduation gift.

We believe our participants were able to show their loved ones how much they know and care for them. The words used were special to each person as were the colors, patterns, and designs. We are all unique individuals with strengths and weaknesses. These parts of our personality were represented and embraced with love. Each parent, guardian, child, and extended family member showed this in their artwork and saw how they are reflected in the eyes of those they hold dear, and now have a memory for a lifetime.