Hey StudioMaury, did you all know that next year I will have been teaching art for an entire decade? Did you also know that all ten of those years (minus this weird teach-from-home Twilight Zone rerun we’re in the middle of watching right now) have been at Maury Elementary? Wow! I’ve become one of those ancient dinosaur teachers, haven’t I?
“Good ole Ms. Bomba,” I heard a kid say, “I remember when you were really young, and really new at this.” That’s actually a recent direct quote from an all time favorite student of mine who served me kombucha the other day but shall otherwise remain nameless. He’s now one of those high school seniors we all feel really bad for. He’s also the same kid who used to make fun of my husband, when he joined us for art family days at the National Gallery, by insulting him with epic art disses like “yeah, well you LOOK like Andy Warhol!” Classic art insult! Gotta love the kid who has enough art history knowledge and confidence to invent a jab like that, even if he did indirectly called me ancient and semi-bad at teaching, all while insulting my husband in the same breath. No hard feelings, man. Good luck in college!
Ms. Bomba in 2012 vs. Ms. Bomba in 2019
The whole point of this walk down memory lane is that teaching at Maury is the best gig an art teacher could ever imagine so why would anyone ever leave? Engaged students, incredible community support, colleagues that feel like family, and the list goes on and on. I do have to say, that as an art teacher, there is one other very specific reason I love teaching at Maury. Let’s call it the cherry on top.
For nine years, the school leaders (wassup CAG and HPC) have always given me the freedom to be the kind of creative risk taker I hope and dream my students will grow up to be. They allow me to practice what I preach, day in and day out, so that I don’t come across as a phony. Kids can spot phonies. Did you ever read J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye? Of course you did, and for my students out there who haven’t yet, you may as well get a head start now that you have the time. That book is all about Holden Caulfield’s uncanny ability to spot “frustratingly inauthentic phonies” aka adults. Because of the trusting, supportive, and bold leaders I’ve had guiding me, I’ve been able to escape the fate of the phony by creating an art studio environment where students have a place to practice being bold, daring, and unapologetic when going after the things they believe in both artistically and personally.
My school leaders support me when I dare to dream big. Whether it’s allowing students to paint every inch of wall space in our old building before it gets demolished as a way to cope with great change, building an Infinity Room inspired by Yayoi Kusama when not enough kids could get tickets to her blockbuster exhibition at the Hirshhorn in 2017, covering an entire hallway, floor to ceiling, in stinky, sticky, paper drenched in Crisco and dirt to mimic the cave paintings of Lascaux, or granting me permission to take the afternoon off to join students in a protest at the Supreme Court–Maury leadership gives me the autonomy I need to feel challenged and valued.
By the end of the week, our “goodbye graffiti” covered every inch of the building
One of the most amazing volunteers I have ever met! This Maury dad continues to lend me his engineering and construction skills, even though his kids are all grown up now.
This was a messy one, not gonna lie!
ART: The greatest communication medium of all!
So this week, although I’m not at Maury, pushing the boundaries of what’s legal within the confines of the school building and the generous leniency of my principal, I am going to ask you guys to try some daring artist maneuvers on the mean streets of DC. The one below is something I’ve always wanted to try but was never quite sure how I’d pull of with class sizes of 30 kids in some cases. It’s called Pirate Printing and it’s really cool!
Pirate Printing is an art form where artists use the unique design of the city to ink and print on top of public fixtures such as manhole covers, sewer lids, storm grates and tiles to create awesome graphic prints on paper, clothing and tote bags.
Berlin-based artist collective Raubdruckerin (pirate printer) is responsible for popularizing the guerrilla art-form
In Japan, after WWII, municipalities allowed citizens to design stylized manhole covers as a way to educate the public about costly sewage projects. The trend stuck. Now years later, over 19,000 designs can be spotted country wide and over 95% of Japan is covered in these unique designs that each reference the specific location and year of installation. If we ever come out of this pandemic, Japan is first on my list of places to visit.
Tour the factory that pumps out these manhole masterpieces!
1. Become a Pirate Printer: In the mood for an adrenaline rush? This lesson extension is for the bold only and is sure to get your blood pumping. If you’re a rebel like me, grab your brayer or paintbrush and some paint, or better yet, water-soluble block-printing ink if you have it, and be prepared to work fast! Fortunately, not many people are out and about these days, making the quarantine the perfect time to ink up the streets. Unfortunately, my research shows that some of the coolest manhole covers are smack dab in the middle of busy streets like H. St NE. Wherever and however you do it, BE SAFE! My first attempt was only semi-successful, as I used regular acrylic paint instead of printing ink. I’ll be back for a second attempt, have no doubt.
Second attempt. There’s always room to improve! Mastery doesn’t happen over night.
2. Not in the mood to break the law? Take a crayon rubbing instead! Peel the paper off an old wax crayon and rub sideways along the manhole. See which textures are able to be lifted from the detailed design. Were you successful?
3. If manholes are not your thing, take a Texture Hunt around the neighborhood. This is something I do often with my ECE students around the art studio during our study of texture each year and it’s a blast. See how many interesting textures you can capture by taking crayon rubbings along one city block. For best results, place a thin piece of paper on top of the texture and rub in an up and down or side to side motion against the grain of the texture you are collecting. Don’t push too hard or too soft and choose a crayon with a dark color so that the design is visible on white paper. See if your family can guess where each texture originated.
Can you identify any of the textures I found in my neighborhood? Did you find any similar ones in your neck of the woods? What was your favorite? Which was most successful?
4. Go on a photo scavenger hunt of all the different manhole covers within a mile of your house. Photograph what you see. Visit a nearby neighborhood and see how the manholes change or stay the same based on where in the city you are!
5. Lastly, pretend DC is like Japan and design a manhole cover for the Maury neighborhood. What important features will you include to represent our neighborhood? Although a bit different, DC has had a pretty cool storm drain design contest sponsored by the Anacostia Watershed Society aimed to educate the public about storm water management. Eliot-Hine’s unique Junk Art Club was one of 20 submissions out of 140 who won the chance to bring their concept to life. Way to go, Feeder School Network! See other winning designs here.
As always, document your process and product and share them with me via email, txt, Teams or Instagram #StudioMaury.