The workshop

Monday, November 11

Monday morning the streets are in full swing, as we get ready to go to the school.  We are very excited to meet the students and begin the workshop. Carlos picks us up, we stop to get Roberto and then it’s off to San Alejandro.  It’s another hot, sweaty day.  There are 8 students in the workshop, plus Anyel, Eduardo and another teacher named Lam, who is the lithography teacher.  We all gather round a tiny table where  I  show plates, prints and demonstrate the process of polyester plate lithography.  I can feel the excitement building from the kids.  Their eyes light up when I show them the practice plates they can use and they are eager beyond belief.  I want them to begin by learning the technique of printing these plates.  Image making will come later.  We set up inking stations around the room and they get started – some timidly and others with no fear.  They quickly encounter the challenges of the medium and I have to encourage them to keep inking and printing the same plates to learn the process.  Their minds are racing ahead of themselves.  Thank god for Sheldon’s help (the students call him teacher), and for Roberto’s translation skills.  The kids work through their break without complaint.  It’s a good beginning.

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Tuesday, November 12

We arrive at the school and unlock the closet and set up for the day’s workshop.  The kids arrive and get started right away.  Some have made drawings on plates we sent home with them last night, some work into the plates from the day before and a few print new plates via the laptop and jump drives on the laser printer.  They are all so competent and self motivated.  There is no hesitation on their part – they know what they want out of the medium and they dig in to make it work for them.  The workshop is busy and I barely have a chance to look at what the students are doing, although I see them drawing into plates, cutting and collaging, scraping away parts of images.  They are so fearless in their experimentation.  I’m troubleshooting and doing impromptu demonstrations.  Professional artists Osmeivy, Adislen, Lam and Eduardo are there, as well as Anyel and the English teacher from the school Belkis who is our translator for the day.  She is wonderful and helpful and the students are feeling comfortable with us.  They ask about our musical tastes and artists we like, and tell us about their likes (they know so much!)  When class is over we are rushed into the “teacher’s lounge” where there is cake and soda waiting for us, and Sandra presents us with gifts – cds, and coffee mugs and exhibition catalogs.  It’s really heartwarming and she tells us she hopes we can come back.  We feel honored in so many ways.

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Wednesday, November 13

We began the workshop later in anticipation of a visit from a group of Americans.  Aliosky from ISA joined the workshop  and a few curious students and teachers from San Alejandro popped in to see what was going on.  We began the day with a color wheel and color mixing exercise.  They have had color theory in other classes, but they’ve never worked with color inks so a quick lesson in color and transparency seemed important.  I realize I am giving them a lot to digest, but they seem to be taking it all in and each student is working at their own pace and using the pieces of information that feed them.  We are getting very attached to these kids, and they to us.  Today they started making successful, complex images.  They are still kids however, and messy plates are in the clean paper area, ink is on the floor.  Sheldon is a saint, cleaning and fetching and helping as he can.  Roberto came with us today in hopes of seeing the Americans.  He is so good at his job and captures the nuance of language.  We are able to joke with the kids with Roberto’s help.   Lam is completely engrossed, making comparisons to stone lithography and is attempting a 4-color polyester plate lithograph.  I point this out to the students.  They have a master in their midst.  It’s wonderful to see the relationship between the students and teachers at the school – great respect, and warmth and support going both ways.

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Thursday, November 14

Thursday morning, an early start.  The students are waiting, eager to begin and we planned for a long day in the studio.  There are some really nice prints coming off the press today.  It’s great to see the teachers working side by side with their students.  Some of the students have mastered the technique and are able to work in the busy, cramped atmosphere and do some great prints.  Others are frustrated and I can tell they need to slow down and work more intentionally.  It’s frustrating when they are not happy with the results, but they are learning and this is such an important part of being an artist.  The students help each other and support one another.  Many other kids who are not in the workshop wander in and are eager to see what is happening. The workshop kids take total ownership and share the process and their prints proudly with their fellow students.  We are beaming!

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Friday, November 15

Friday morning, our last workshop day.  We are both so sad to be ending this experience with the students at San Alejandro.  They spend the morning making prints, getting better and better.  Some of them take to the process like fish to water, while others struggle with inking.  We try as hard as possible to make sure each student has a print they can be proud of.  By one o’clock the paper is getting low and it’s time to clean up.  It’s the quietest clean up of the week as we are all feeling quite sad about our imminent goodbye.  The students start signing prints as gifts to us, and I give them each a proof I’ve pulled during the week.  We bring their prints into the gallery and each student says a few words about their work.  We are rushed for time so the talk is brief.  Pictures next, then a little food reception and thank yous and so many hugs and kisses.  We are happy to know that we will leave behind a year’s worth of supplies so they can continue on their own.  It’s hard to keep from crying as we pull away from the school with all the kids waving goodbye.

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Back at the house we make a pot of espresso and try to read the thank you notes the kids wrote to us.  Even though we don’t understand everything we get the gist and are touched by how close we all became in these 5 days.  We unwrapped all the art we have collected so far and looked at it, along with the prints the kids gave us.  After dinner we look at the pictures of the day – the beautiful faces of the kids from the workshop.  It’s amazing how quickly one can fall in love with children.


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