Our middle school elective on Street Art started off with a history and survey of graffiti, street art and public art. Students took a mini-field trip to the growing series mini-murals painted on the Green Line train trestle along South Blvd. at Oak Park Ave.
For their first project, each student to create their own "tag" in graffiti-style, using a stencil.
Contemporary street art has its roots in tagging, which is what most of us think of when the word graffiti is used. Still prevalent, it is simply individuals marking a public surface with a name or symbol -- usually for the purpose of claiming territory.
Starting in the 1970's, mostly in New York City, graffiti taggers developed elaborate and sophisticated techniques with spray paint, paint, chalk and stencils. Artists rebelling against social norms and disaffected with gallery and museum culture began to use these graffiti techniques to make art with social and political content in public places.
For their Tag Project, each student designed a personal tag, being mindful to craft a letter style robust enough for use as a stencil (no thin lines!). Letters were then enlarged to fit the space available, sketched on card stock and cut out. Next, students created brick patterns on their paper by holding the paper against a brick wall and rubbing it with crayon or oil pastel -- revealing the surface texture/pattern. Many students enhanced the grout lines and added other colors.
Finally, stencils were affixed to the "brick walls", and outlined using oil pastels. Removing the stencils then revealed the final design..
The Children's School introduced electives this year for middle-schoolers, allowing students to explore in-depth topics of interest.