Blog: Our Reality Show

Choose a Category

Currently showing posts tagged Artist Residency

  • Artist Residency: Teaching on Resilience

    On Friday, I started teaching a unit on visual storytelling to a group of 20 seventh- and eighth-grade students at Holmes Middle School in Annandale, Va. The class is part of my artist-in-residence program sponsored by the Arts Council of Fairfax County.

    Irony was in abundance, as my dad taught middle school art for more than 30 years and my wife's first job as an assistant principal was at Holmes Middle School in North Carolina almost 20 years ago. And despite being a parent of four and a longtime presenter, I was more than a little nervous. Middle schoolers can be a tough crowd.

    The first class — others are scheduled through March 1 — focused on portraits and composition using mobile phones. The students' engagement and answers were terrific, and they spent a few minutes taking photos of each other outside. It was fascinating to see how quickly these digital natives caught on to what I was talking about.

    One point I tried to make was that you can get an interesting photo anywhere, even a parking lot where nothing is going on, if you think outside the box about composition. While we were outside, one student asked me to demonstrate and, with my iPhone, I shot the photo below and showed it to him.

    "That's pretty cool," the student said. And with that, we were off and running.

    Tomorrow's class will introduce the theme of the students' project: resilience. I'll have a PowerPoint, videos and my own work to show, and then we'll get down to the nitty gritty of planning what they'll be working on for the next few weeks. I will keep you posted. #artsfairfax

  • The Resilience Project Exhibit is Up!

    My featured artist exhibit, "The Resilience Project," is on display in the Arches Gallery (building W-9) at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton through April 1. A reception will be held as part of the center's Second Saturday Art Walk from 6 to 9 p.m. on March 10.

    Included in the exhibit are 28 photos focused on the theme of resilience, as well as photos taken by students from Holmes Middle School in Annandale. The student work is part of the Artist in Residence program I'm participating in thanks to the Arts Council of Fairfax County.

    Come see my work! To read more about the exhibit and get a preview of the photos on display, go to

  • Artist Residency: An Update

    Photos from the last Artist Residency class at Holmes Middle School. (Pics by Garrett James of Capital Media USA) #artsfairfax

    Earlier this week, I finished my artist residency at Holmes Middle School in Annandale. It was an illuminating experience, one that further deepened my appreciation for teachers and showed — again — that today's digital natives have great instincts and talents.

    Jason Hutto's class of seventh- and eighth graders learned about the meaning and value of resilience, basic photo composition, how to conduct an interview, and how to develop, build, and edit a visual story. They were tasked with finding, photographing, videotaping, and interviewing an adult about resilience.

    The students selected a parent, family member, teacher, or trusted adult. Many learned more about their parents' journey to America as immigrants, or how teachers and counselors work to help students in an incredibly diverse environment. Talking to the students about their subjects, you could see how they were learning lessons about the power of resilience in our everyday lives.

    The continuity of the sessions was marred when two days of class were cancelled due to weather. On the final class day, some students were on a field trip, while others were in testing.

    No question, teaching was a test of my own resilience. Both of my parents were teachers, and I've written about K-12 education for my entire career, so I knew some of the basics. Also, as a parent of four, I was prepared to deal with students who have a variety of learning styles. I knew some would be more engaged than others, a few would bring more knowledge to the table, and some would generally not give a damn.

    Having that knowledge in advance, however, didn't prepare me for the reality of teaching, and for a time, I worried that the students would not complete the project. Technical issues, all fixable roadblocks that emerged, clogged the flow. I also faced language barriers with two students whose English is extremely limited.

    In the end, it all worked out — for the most part. The work produced by a majority of the students exceeded my expectations. I was impressed by how invested several were in this idea — my idea — of developing art on a topic so close to my heart.

    You can see still photographs by 10 students as part of my show — "The Resilience Project" — now on display at the Arches Gallery (Building 9) at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton. We have a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, and I hope some of you will be able to make it. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

    The photo below is a preview of the students' work. Hope you can make it to the exhibit. #artsfairfax