Now and Tomorrow II

Arts Review

Now and Tomorrow II

Creative Research Laboratory, through July 3

The gallery walls at Creative Research Lab are filled with children's self-portraits, painted abstracts inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe, and crudely handled embroidered images on burlap – works not identifiably different from those found in the hallways of any school. On the surface, the works in "Now and Tomorrow II," a collaborative exhibition between AISD art teachers and the Greater Tomorrow Youth Art Program, an outreach program in the Visual Art Studies Division of UT-Austin's Department of Art and Art History, might lead one to believe that the program is doing little to expand curriculum concepts already offered by AISD. But one of the goals of the Greater Tomorrow Youth Art Program (formerly ArtTouch) is to use art education as a means of fostering analytic thinking processes. Founded in 2002 by Dr. Christopher Adejumo from the UT Visual Art Studies division, the program emphasizes learning, not competing, putting children in a hands-on, noncompetitive environment where process is paramount and personal development, confidence, creativity, and group cooperation are encouraged. The ceramics in the current exhibition are a prime example of Dr. Adejumo's approach in action. The second graders at Delco Primary School were given a challenging directive by teacher Kate Winternitz: Design anti-smoking ashtrays that would discourage people from smoking and write explanations describing how their inventions would operate. The pieces they created are absolute wonders. The more aggressive means of discouraging smokers involve the use of spikes through the hand, flamethrowers, and being branded with the letter "S." Psychologically more subtle measures include instantaneously being turned into a fish or being tortured by the mewing of a kitten for the next 24 hours. These works, high on expression, positive risk-taking, and imagination, filled me with joy. I have never laughed so hard or felt so happy after leaving an exhibition. It is the vision of these types of programs that our children develop an awareness of their own innovative character, strengths, and nurturing capacities. The children develop a profound awareness of the collective and larger culture in which they live and an understanding that they as individuals contribute to the welfare of one another. That's what Greater Tomorrow Youth Art Program is doing. That's it. That's huge.

For more information about Greater Tomorrow Youth Art Program or "Now and Tomorrow II," contact Dr. Christopher Adejumo at 471-5672 or c.ade@mail.utexas.edu.

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