Choice and Chance in Art

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Fourth and sixth grade students at Capitol Hill Day School (210 South Carolina Ave. SE) are sharing space In the Young Artists Gallery at Hill Center. Their art teachers, Julia Denardo and Sara Gibson believe that “creation is a human drive and it’s shared by all humanity regardless of race, class, gender, education, ability…” Titled “Choice and Chance,” the show presents their exploration of these elements in art.

Under the guidance of Ms. Gibson, the fourth graders investigated two questions she regards as essential: Why do people create? What is the bare minimum people need to create? As an example, her students looked at the work of Syrian sculptor Nizar Ali Badr. Badr uses pebble-stones from Mount Zaphon near his native town, to present stories about the situation in his country and the struggles of his neighbors. The students created their own pebble art; like Badr’s, it is ephemeral, only photographs remain. They also made a trip to the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore to experience the work of self-taught artists using found materials. A further challenge: creating a portrait of someone they admired. They were free to choose from traditional and non-traditional materials to visually represent the unique characteristics of the portrait subjects.

Concerned that sixth grade students often become harsh critics of their own work, Ms. DeNardo reinforced the message that when people are “called to create,” they exercise resourcefulness and flexibility using whatever materials and techniques are available to them; formal training is not necessary. She encouraged her artists to notice how “the unpredictability of chance can enhance their artistic vision in a freeing way.” Students practiced releasing control and embracing spontaneity by dropping paper strips and allowing their landing positions to guide the design, or by applying salt and plastic wrap on watercolors to create pattern and texture as the paint dried.

A sampling of the results is on view at Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) through April 12. Ms. Denardo and Ms. Gibson “welcome all to come get inspired by the creative ways our artists have explored choice and chance in their artwork… how they’ve used unconventional materials and experimental processes to celebrate those they admire and to express themselves.”