Recently, I had opportunity to be a guest teacher in a junior high Social Studies class where the teacher is using an Art Arena Game to teach concepts around the colonization of land. There are three art games going on, one for each of his grade seven classes. I won’t speak directly to his process, just write as an observer and to share some of my past experiences with this type of learning.
The use of the term, handicapped, on the back cover of the book is merely a reflection of the time…published in 1979.
I read Don Pavey’s Art-Based Games a zillion years ago and in my practice, incorporated role playing and key concepts that are outlined in the book, but sometimes with a spin. That’s the point to Art-Based games. I have no archive of the completed murals created by my students, but will post an image of a completed mural from Art Arena Games UK. firstname.lastname@example.org
From the UK site, this…
Art Arena is a team game format designed to develop social interaction and group skills. The game process creates large works of art such as paintings, drawings, wall murals and composite prints.
While there are all sorts of art games, beginning with simple group games like the Exquisite Corpse, tessellation games and fractal games, for the purpose of this post, I’m writing solely about those leading to the creation of large gridded murals, no matter the media produced through role play. (these may also be produced as three dimensional or relief sculptures). I have taken some digital photos of images in my Art-Based Games book…likely a huge infringement of copyright. They just help me to explain this process…and yes, eventually, I will post images of the Social Studies project.
The process of creating an art game and then producing the resulting art involves productive communication and requires a variety of skills. Some might call the process a group drama as participants go into role as master planner, production line managers, communicators, colour mixers and artists. The art game might take place in a single afternoon, but my students typically worked on their arena over a period of a month, sometimes longer.
The largest mural project created during one of my Art Arena Games was the creation of a huge bridge down the entire length of a hallway at St. John Fine Art’s School here in Calgary. This was a great game because it expanded from one space to another and involved journeying between those spaces. The master planner did not have visual access to the large project (in fact he was seated, like the REAL Wizard of Oz, behind a tri fold that contained a window where instructions were passed in and out to the department managers). In fact, the managers of the project and the master planner did not see the physical art until after each day’s class had ended and they were using the hallway to move to the next scheduled class. I think that the young man who was in role as the master planner was the son of an architect here in town who was, in part, responsible for the design of the 10th St and Memorial Drive pedestrian and LRT bridge, very cutting edge for the time.
Wh When these experiences happen, it is amazing. It is empowering to students and also teaches a huge responsibility to ones own vision and contribution to a community. It requires risk from educators to leave a traditional approach and to allow for a more grand learning experience. These can be fashioned to each particular classroom culture, space, size and can be used in order to teach any number of concepts, whether that be in math, social studies, science, pure art, drama or any traditional ‘subject’. The greatest fear that most teachers have is a loss of control or management. These scenarios, once designed, place that management on the learners.
The following is a series of photographs I took of the social studies game that is happening in grade seven. It involves trading up and colonizing a physical space, much as Europeans would have experienced. Included here…farming and grain, flora and fauna, trapping and hides. It was easy for me, as a guest teacher, to step in and watch the game happen. Each class was broken into three clans…the Anishinabe, Haudenosaunee and Mi’kmaq. Each of the clans had three clan leaders. There were three Trustworthy People in each class. Each participant in the game had their own personal icon and avatar and contributed to the game through their trading. A conference was shared in each clan as clan members made decisions amongst themselves regarding their moves on the game and the trades that they would make. Absolutely amazing to watch! I hope to visit to see the final outcome. The blue spaces on each board represent the water bodies…lakes…rivers. These were determined on the boards before the games commenced.