"Stormey" Weather with Art, Song and Story
Recently, I was able to combine several of my favorite storytelling things-- art, kids, education and music. Art in Action, a nonprofit that provides K-8 curriculum to schools, is a group I support both as a PR consultant as well as a mom. Last week, my daughter and her classmates were learning about Nellie Mae Rowe and her piece, Stormey Weather. I love these lessons, because not only do the kids learn the history of an artist and study a particular piece, they also get a chance to create their own artwork inspired by that artist.
Nellie Mae, a self-taught African-American artist, was new to me. As I read up on Nellie Mae, what I found most impressive was the playfulness that she brought to her art, despite a life with major hardships. And-- what a plus that the kids were told that one of the most important things in this lesson was to be playful and have fun!
My contribution was to create the lesson's "soundtrack." I've had the opportunity to do this on a few occasions, and I love bringing the art to life for the kids via music. I've played everything from Polynesian chants for a lesson on a South Pacific stamping technique, to Pollock's favorite jazz pieces for a fun afternoon of swinging and splattering.
It's great to see the kids' faces light up and their eyes get big, especially when I surprise them with something that sounds different or weird to them. The music can reinforce something they've just learned, or inspire them-- as they envision the artists in their studios, listening to the same music they're listening to, while creating their own works of art.
Leading the playlist was Etta James' Stormy Weather, of course, along with a couple of traditional African-American songs-- There'll Be Peace in the Valley for Me, and We Shall Not Be Moved. I threw in some Bob Dylan, with Shelter from the Storm, and Wee Bird by Mandolin Orange, to reinforce Nellie's frequent use of birds in her artwork. Finally, we rounded it out with Georgia On My Mind, given Nellie Mae's home state.