January 5, 2011

Tim Rollins and KOS

The KOS, which stands for Kids of Survival, was a group of young artists formed by Tim Rollins in the 80's. Rollins was a young artist himself when he was asked to teach a group of school students at Intermediate School 52 in the Bronx and develop a program that combined art-making and reading and writing skills. He started a process that they termed, "Jammin" in which sections of literature were read while students interpreted what they heard into personalized drawings. Eventually Rollins opened an after school workshop called "The Art and Knowledge Workshop". The work produced by the group soon took on a signature style; they worked directly on the pages of the books they read. Eventually the group gained national and international attention and led to the development of other KOS groups across the US.

Toward the end of last semester I began to feel like I wouldn't be able to make much of an impact on students as simply an art teacher. Regular classroom teachers have one class that they see every day, all day for the entire school year which gives them ample time to inspire and help their students grow. But as an art teacher I will only see each class for fifty minutes once or twice a week. I felt like there was no way I would ever be able to have such a huge impact on my students when all I am teaching them is art. There are so many inspiring stories about teachers changing the lives of their students (my favorite, Erin Gruwell) but I haven't come across too many about art teachers (although my own high school art teacher, David Miller, was the one who initially helped me realize I could actually go to school for art) so learning about Tim Rollins is significant for me.

Rollins and the KOS and their work involving both art and literature is extremely relevant and meaningful for the crisis (crisis seems too intense but we'll go with it) in the art education work right now. There is so much pressure as an art teacher to prove to the education system that not only is art a valid subject to be taught in schools but that it is also necessary and essential. What Rollins did was bridge the gap between art and literature (was there really a gap though...?) and show students that each subject can influence and enhance the other and that their learning ultimate becomes a personalized process.

As a teacher I don't just want to teach my students about color and perspective and line. I want them to be able to use art as a way to tap into their own selves, to discover they are capable of things they never thought they could do, and to connect their lives to the world around them.

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