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An Exploration of Creativity and Movement in IB Art

By Terae Soumah and Rhonda Ike
An Exploration of Creativity and Movement in IB Art

The theme of movement is one international students and educators can well relate to. We have all had the experience of lifting our roots and trying to resettle on foreign soil. We have all experienced the joys of discovering a new place and the sorrows of saying goodbye to an old home. Students in Rhonda Ike’s IB art class at the International Community School of Abidjan (ICSA) had the chance to explore the impact of movement on their creativity through their teacher’s graduate work. Mrs. Ike was immersed in her master’s study, exploring how movement has affected her own life and her art, and chose to include her students in the study. Mrs. Ike’s final master’s thesis culminated in an installation presented 19-26 January 2018, at the Institut National Supérieur des Arts et de l’Action Cultural (INSAAC), the renowned arts university for visual art, music, and dance in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Her work included large tableaus of yoga movements in charcoal on paper, over 300 sketches from her travel diaries strung strategically together, a photo slideshow depicting the movement of passersby outside a shop in Nigeria, and weavings of scraps of African pagnes, or wraps. The exhibition was a three-dimensional map intended to represent movement in a variety of ways and from different periods of the artist’s life. Visitors moved through the installation viewing and interacting with pieces that not only depicted movement and travel, but had elements of physical movement within their hanging structure. This interaction was an essential feature of the exhibit. Viewers inadvertently changed each piece as they moved through it, similar to the effect of the cultural exchange we all go through as international educators. We are changed, as are the host country nationals with whom we interact, often subtly and without intention. The full impact may not be fully realized until much later. The self-designed master’s study leading up to the exhibit involved a series of Mrs. Ike’s installations on campus, incorporating her experience as an installation artist and her love of ephemeral art. She created an installation art unit for her IB students that gave them a chance to be exposed to more non-traditional forms of art. It also allowed Mrs. Ike to interact with her students not just as their teacher but also as an artist. The installations became a catalyst for discussion and reflection, enabling students to embark on their own process of developing, proposing, and presenting installation art. Mrs. Ike’s teaching philosophy, inspired by bell hooks, Parker Palmer, and others, emphasizes the importance of including students in her creative process. She wanted them to see what it looks like to be an artist, and how individual pieces and bodies of work evolve, both conceptually and physically. “Every personal piece I share with my students lets them know that I respect their opinions and that we can all learn from each other. They have seen my pieces transform into resolved pieces of work, and have, at times, been an integral part of that process. They have learned that not everything is planned, and not everything is good. If you are willing to take the risk, those ‘failed’ pieces can turn into something you never imagined.” Students are often led through art classes, following certain formulas and directions, but never really getting a chance to fully express themselves. There are techniques to learn and rubrics to follow. Mrs. Ike decided to do something unusual. As a part of her investigation into the effects of movement on creative expression, students in the ICSA IB art class were given the opportunity to explore the effect of movement on their emotions and creativity. In a series of Friday afternoon classes, they were led through various movement activities: running, jumping, and mark-making on a wall, drawing with outstretched limbs and the body itself, and dancing across paint-covered surfaces. Students then reflected on the experience by answering some questions in writing while looking at the work they created. One student responded that “activities like these are important for taking students out of their comfort zones to explore other ways of making art.” Others found the movement activities “required you to think outside of the box” and “helped [my] conceptual development.” Mrs. Ike’s research made it clear that students understood emotional expression as a vital part of the art-making process, and that the spontaneity of the movement activities fueled their creativity. This type of physical movement involves the students in their learning as active participants, a goal of engaged pedagogy. The students came up with many descriptive words for their experiences: fun, exciting, colorful, stimulating, different, brainless, relaxed, joyful, light, daring, bold, unbothered, and amazed. They all loved the activities, of course, and certainly gained something from the exposure of creating in this way. Who wouldn’t love a class where you are encouraged to take off your shoes, squirt paint on large pieces of paper and dance around in it? Terae Soumah and Rhonda Ike are artists and international educators currently creating and teaching in Bamako, Mali and Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

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