- About MMS
Multimedia Artist Engages Students with 'Sensory' Art Workshop
“Try to hold still,” urges a sophomore girl sitting across from a classmate, as she carefully wipes a Vaseline ribbon along her friend’s hairline, framing her face with a shiny outline. Next, she begins placing wet, pre-cut strips of a material resembling cloth bandages or mummy wrappings inside the shiny perimeter, across her friend’s forehead and around her eyes, nose and mouth. After about fifteen minutes of adding strips, the process is complete; with just the eyes, nostrils and lips of the subject remaining uncovered. The strips – a plaster-laced craft material for making masks and casts – is applied two and three layers thick, and requires a few more minutes to set up before the mask cast is firm enough to remove.
The girls are high school students at Mount Madonna School (MMS) who are participating in an art workshop developed by multimedia artist and social activist Agustin Equihua Ortiz. Equihua Ortiz, longtime friend of MMS Spanish teacher Oscar Pérez, who invited him to come and create art with MMS high school students as a way of introducing the students to the Latino artist and activist.
“Agustin is very talented and has found his voice through his artwork,” notes Pérez. “He’s an accomplished muralist, sculptor and painter, and he has experience creating and collaborating on many public and private art projects in the U.S., Mexico, Germany and France. He’s also done a fair amount of social activism. Agustin is one of the founders of La Vecindad in Michoacán, Mexico, an artists’ collective and community gathering space that offers art and music workshops, as well as teaching indigenous languages.”
Over the two-day workshop, Equihua Ortiz met with all Mount Madonna high school students, and engaged them in several ‘sense’-related art projects: mask-making and painting, creating wax and watercolor prints, writing poetry, and listening to music the students were not familiar with.
Equihua-Ortiz began his presentation with a short introduction and then shared with students a slide show of his work. He talked with them about the five senses, and then said he believes there is a sixth sense – that of mindfulness and contemplation.
As a way of calling students attention to their senses, he asked them to close their eyes and listen to a short operatic piece – the epic and pounding rhythms of Carmina Burana - and think about what they were feeling, tasting, smelling, hearing, etc. When the music stopped, students opened their eyes and shared these thoughts in “I see, I feel” style poems. The resulting poetry – which some students volunteered to share and read aloud to the group – ranged from the very humorous to more intense, personal and serious.
“The music we listened to reminded me of a ‘giant’ action movie,” describes freshman Maddie Thatcher. “It was big and dramatic. The poem I wrote was partly humorous and also serious; it was challenging to identify and know how to describe what I ‘tasted’ at that moment.”
In addition to working on the arts projects, senior Rudy Hooven was able to share his own portfolio of artwork with Equihua Ortiz, receiving some valuable feedback and inspiration:
“Ever since I was little art has been a big passion of mine," comments Hooven. "Now that I am growing older, I take my art more seriously and getting to know other artists, such as Agustin, has helped me to create a broader perspective on art and its different aspects. It was great showing Agustin my work and exchanging methods and techniques. His positive feedback gives me motivation to keep working hard at what I enjoy most."
After writing poetry, students broke into pairs to work on making masks of each other’s faces – or in some instances casts of hands, feet – or even a boy’s chest. Students later used vibrant tempera paints to add color and designs to their finished works. During a later session, Equihua Ortiz works with the students in smaller groups to create wax and watercolor paintings. Once the paintings are dry, students use black calligraphy ink to write in their sense poems over the top of the painting. For more information on Equihua Ortiz’ art, visit his website at www.artequihua.com.
"I enjoyed having the opportunity to connect my poetry to art because I don't usually do that,” says freshman Holden Smith. “Agustin's presentation was inspiring. What struck me most was how Agustin was passionate about art and that is able to pursue this passion through his work."
“It’s all about making art accessible,” comments Equihua Ortiz. “It’s all about the process, not so much about having some ‘great’ finished product, but about exploring and creating. By using different media, and keeping it tactile and physical, everyone has a chance to find a connection.”
Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, Media & Public Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.