Off the wall

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Professor Lisa LaJevic (right) and senior Gabe Randazzo designed a curriculum that teaches schoolchildren about ecology through lessons on contemporary artists. Photo (c) Addison Geary

The Problem: The visual arts are a powerful social force, expressing an individual’s feelings and conveying them to the world at large. But when children and young people learn about art in school, they are often presented with a stiff or outdated curriculum that doesn’t tie into their world. Many of their lessons are based on formal elements of art like line, shape and color, or framed around still lifes of long-dead artists. During his sophomore year at TCNJ, Gabe Randazzo began thinking about how he could pull in fresh elements and introduce students to contemporary artists they could relate to. “Kids need to know that art isn’t in the past, that it’s always changing, and that it’s happening now,” he says.

Their fix: Randazzo collaborated with his professor to produce a new curriculum built around street artist Paul Curtis. The British artist, known as Moose, is known for creating “reverse graffiti” promoting green themes and ecologically friendly artmaking. Reverse graffiti, also known as clean tagging, creates temporary or semi-permanent images on dirty surfaces. Moose’s best-known work is probably the mural of trees he created by cleaning parts of the grimy but heavily trafficked Broadway Tunnel in San Francisco. The lessons not only raise awareness of ecological issues, but also stimulate thinking about artists as change agents. They also give students tools to make their own reverse graffiti on public spaces.

Their takeaway: Randazzo and LaJevic presented the curriculum to arts educators in New Jersey as well as a National Art Education Association forum in Texas, and have since heard from teachers who are eager to adopt their ideas. They also co-authored a September 2013 article in Arts Education, the official journal of the National Art Education Association. Randazzo, meanwhile, has experienced some of the fruits of his research. While student teaching he found that students were “blown away” by lessons on contemporary artists like Lordy Rodriguez, a Filipino-American artist who transforms maps and cartography into his own visions. He has not had the chance to teach the Moose curriculum, but plans to as soon as he gets his own classroom following graduation in May.

Professor: Lisa LaJevic

Student: Gabe Randazzo

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