My Random Job: Artist in Residence, Detroit

My awesome friend Ian used to work for  Inside Out is a literary arts program for the Detroit Public Schools. Each year, they hire local writers and artists to be in-residence and help the kids publish a literary magazine with stories, poems, and photos of artwork at various schools.

One year, Ian was brave enough to try something different.  He approached me to do puppets with the students.  Translating puppets into 2D form for a book was a bit interesting, but we decided on shadow puppetry to make it easier.

Inside Out Shadow Puppets
A bird hatching out of an egg
Inside Out Detroit
A student pleased with the result of his shadow creations

I went into two different schools: a middle school and high school, and taught them about negative space in creating shadows. Their assignment was to animate their own design. It didn’t matter what they wanted to create, it just had to have a moving part.

We worked with cereal boxes to create the dark space, and I brought in cellophane to show them how to add color to their puppet. We used fishing line and paper fasteners to create the joints and skewers to make the controls. It was really important to me that the items we used were extremely cheap and easy to find so it their interest was piqued, they could continue on their own.

Working off of a digital projector, the students one by one came up to test out their designs and make adjustments. Many were quite surprised that any drawing on the cardboard wouldn’t show

Inside Out Detroit
A class full of budding puppeteers!

up, since it wasn’t see-through. It was great to see how their thinking process changed to get the result they wanted.

The middle-schoolers were easy…they loved the idea of art, (pretty much anything that would get them out of writing) and adapted quickly to shadow work.

The high-schoolers were a bit more of a challenge.  If you can imagine inner-city school kids, most of which were much bigger than I, sitting down to create puppets while still preserving their “rep”…well, it was an adventure.

But by the end of my workshops though, even the toughest, growliest kid was proudly showing off his creation.

The power of art…LOVE IT!

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