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Students get creative for Waterworks residency

Last week, 30 middle school students from across the county flexed their creative muscles at Waterworks Visual Arts Center’s Middle School Artist Residency.
“It was an opportunity to write and illustrate an original story,” said Peg Gignoux.
Gignoux, a professional and teaching artist, led the art portion of the week-long workshop.
The residency program brought the two disciplines of art and writing together, she explained. “You’re integrating two worlds.”
Students, who were nominated to attend by their art teachers, collaboratively wrote a coming-of-age story, but each personalized the outcome of the story.
Then, they each created their own sculptural pop-up book, with a secret room on the inside.
Erwin Middle School seventh-grader Macy Abramson said the collaborative writing piece told the story of a boy who was orphaned and lived with his grandmother. The night before his birthday, she sent him out into the woods, where he fell asleep and had a dream.
The basic story is the same, Gignoux explained, but each one of the students figures out where the boy ends up.
“We all had to come up with a dream he has in the woods,” Abramson explained.
In her story, the boy dreamed about becoming a caregiver to all the animals.
Kiara Floyd, an eighth-grader at Southeast Middle, said the boy became a firefighter in her story.
The camp gave students the opportunity to express their creativity through both art and writing.
Susie Wilde, the writing instructor for the week, said the best part for her was when the students found meaning in their writing.
“Most of the teachers I work with feel really driven by the curriculum,” she said. “It isn’t meaningful to the kids.”
They also learned to write multiple drafts and to improve as they go along, Wilde said.
“It’s hard,” she added.
The students “learned professional practices around being an illustrator,” Gignoux said.
The students got to illustrate their books “in their own way,” she said.
“It really is a rare treat for this age group,” she added.
Floyd said her favorite part of the camp was painting. “Art is fun to do,” she said.
The students created handmade, decorative papers to line the inside of each book.
Abramson said her favorite activity during the week was making her collage. “I like how imaginative it gets.”
Gignoux said Waterworks holds the camp each year, but the experience changes each year, as they use “different modalities.”

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