Artists: Shawn Caldera, Mark Monroe, Bill Clyne, Angela Kehler, and Sara Weeres
Words: North and Youth
As Wendy explains the process all eyes are on her, intent and focused. It is so clear they are students, used to paying close attention to the spoken word, extracting salient points. There are many questions, clarifying the assignment. Before anything else, as the questions and answers are still unfolding, the glass pieces are pressed into service as templates, used to draw outlines on the pages, literally delineating parameters.
They look skilled with group work too: listening to each other, responding by supporting and building on each other’s thoughts. Though, the usual struggle of groups to determine “who will report for us?” has become “Who will draw for us?”
They take an academic approach that makes me smile. “Okay, let’s do word association, and see what comes up?” This brainstorm harnesses the word north to the mountains, to rocks and rugged and outdoors: “When I think North and think of the PG campus I think of being outdoors.” But then there are still more questions: “Does it mean all of the north though?”
In both groups, smart phones are open and they are researching and sharing new found knowledge, images and symbols that spur ideas and suggestions. In group two they have seized on fireworks as their image for youth. The energy and bright flashes of colour flashing across and illuminating a dark sky symbolize the best youth bring to this northern campus.
Pencils are on paper now, and each is silent and intent on the pages in front of them. One page is now the focus for one pair. She reaches across to the page in front of him and with a quick glance at the screen of the phone starts erasing. He continues drawing, unfazed. She draws, erases, draws again. In the other group, they are dissatisfied, the colours aren’t what they want and need. They have high standards for their drawing and the colours must be right. Wendy calls them “trouble” and brings more colours to their table and they laugh. But they know what they want and where they are going.
They have worked so hard, so many draft sketches, that all the pencils are blunted. Annie disappears, returns, pencils pointedly sharp – a symbol of faculty’s role supporting students with the tools they need to do their best work. They are so intent they don’t notice.
There is patience and team work in both groups, stopping to look and listen and discuss. Hand gestures flash in the air across the drawings, phrases “I see,” Okay,” leading to more questions: “what texture should this part be?” “Is that enough colour? Do you need more?” all fuel the collaborative creative process they are building to support each other to create their final product.
Around the edge of the room the photographer, kneels, stands on chairs, snaps close ups and long shots, seeking, finding new vantage points for his camera. He is quietly capturing the intelligence, the intensity of northern students, northern youth, who are turning research and thinking into powerful images.