Pan Comida! Piece of Cake!

After hours of preparation, Eric and Janet hosted a free 3-hour after school workshop yesterday afternoon for Chatham County, NC teachers, for which they received in-service training credits from the school district.  There were seven teachers.  “The right people always show up,” I reassured them after a few expressed the wish that more would have participated. The workshop was included in the Grassroots Grant awarded to the NC Arts Incubator through Chatham Arts and the NC Arts Council.

We “set the table” with samples of hand carved fanciful wood animal figures, called alebrijes, that are brightly painted; a Francisco Toledo kite crafted from handmade paper; and miniature woven tapestries made with a hand-held cardboard loom.   Another table spilled over with supplies teachers are familiar with:  scissors, rulers, non-toxic paint, brushes, egg cartons, popsicle sticks, buttons, empty plastic bottles and metal cans, stencils of Zapotec rug patterns pre-cut from foam core board, strands of brightly colored and naturally dyed yarn, Elmer’s glue, plain brown wrapping paper, bamboo sticks, and string.

Several taught K-8 and covered art classes at every grade level.  One mentioned that kindergarten art classes go for 25 minutes, and we marveled at what could be taught or experienced in a 25 minute class period.  They were from all over the county, east to west, and said that Latino students 25% to 70% of the student population in their classrooms.  One told the story about a student who spoke no English, but who created extraordinary art and inspired his classmates.

After a brief presentation about the history and art of Oaxaca, the teachers constructed their own hand-held cardboard looms, warped them with string, and proceeded to weave miniature tapestries with yarn connected to a popsicle stick with masking tape, that they could then demonstrate to students.  Eric explained that this was a process he had taught to over 250 school children in Oaxaca with great success to understand the Zapotec culture and weaving techniques.  Some finished quickly and created their own alebrije, cutting, painting and glueing pieces of cardboard, plastic, drinking straws, and foam packing materials together.  Look, it’s an owl.  See the bat flying through the dark sky.  Another wanted to make a kite from brown wrapping paper and dowels, decorated with designs duplicated from the patterns of rugs hanging nearby.  We talked about whether kites need tails in order to fly.

When it was all over, the teachers left satisfied and with instructions about how to construct the loom and kite, and Eric exclaimed, “pan comida.”

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