Limitless Learning: Artist Alex de Leon to Dinosaurs to Edgar Allen Poe
Since March, Artpace has fostered a blossoming relationship with the San Antonio Public Library. “Contemporary Connections” is an outreach program that takes place on Saturday afternoons at the Forrest Hills and Guerra Branch Libraries. Every session introduces artistic elements and ideas based off of Artpace’s current exhibitions. On July 14th, children and parents participated in an art activity that explored the techniques of Hudson (Show)Room and International Artist-in-Residence artist Alex De Leon. After viewing images of his work, participants created their own art pieces inspired by ceramic sculptures by de Leon. As an Associate Educator and representative of Artpace, I was blown away at how quickly students grasped the essence of de Leon’s work and immediately began creating pieces of their own in homage to de Leon. Students between the ages of 7 to 12 developed drawings on white paper and then transferred their images to large construction paper using graphite paper. They explored blending and experimenting with color using oil pastels.
One little boy, began drawing what he called, “fantasy creatures” for his Alex de Leon inspired piece. These were hybrids of dinosaurs, birds and other animals. He talked about previous “fantasy creatures” that he invented and provided a detailed account of the specific features that he borrowed from each. The most impressive part of what the young boy described was that he used the actual scientific name for each dinosaur. His drawings married the wings of a Microraptor zhaoianus with the body of a rooster and the ferocious teeth and head of a Spinosaurus aegyptiacus.
Every child and parent involved worked continuously for the entire two hour session. Once most of the families left, two siblings waited for their mother to pick them up. One of the children picked up a pencil and began to draw a picture of Edgar Allen Poe that she saw on a poster hanging from a book shelf. As we discussed Poe, she said that she had never heard of him but liked how he looked and was interested in learning more. I asked the librarian to help her find some of Poe’s books.
Like most of Artpace’s educational outreach events, the opportunities for learning are limitless. I was delighted to watch children explore literature, science, history and, of course, art, all through the lens of Alex de Leon’s painted sculptures.
Leora Uribe joined the Artpace team of Associate Educators three years ago, but has been a recognizable face on the San Antonio art scene for years. She is an award-winning Fiesta Cornyation Designer, works with Southwest School of Art as a Mobile Arts Instructor, and volunteers at various places around town. She is also on the home stretch to complete her degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio to teach 4th to 8th grade-level Language Arts, Reading, and Social Studies.