My Work with Students
When I Look at You, I See..., 1998
Spiral Workshop students under the direction of Sarah Liles and Eileen Lacy with Olivia Gude
Mixed Media Installation
     This work is one of my proudest accomplishments.  Spiral Workshop is a series of Saturday art classes for interested middle- and high school students taught by pre-service teachers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Another student-teacher and I guided the students through an exploration of identity, particularly as it relates to the way teenagers are perceived in our society.
    We began by dividing into small groups and discussing the issues.  Each group of four then shared their thoughts with the group at large, using an overhead projector.  This excercise stimulated the students to create the text that they wrote on the installation wall.  Some wrote poetry; others recounted memories or listed adjectives describing the way others see them and the ways they see themselves.
    In addition to a short bit of text, each student-artist contributed a pair of spray-paint stenciled eyes.  Each student chose an expression that she or he felt was appropriate given the theme of our work and/or her or his own text.
    The final components of the installation were the students self-portraits.  These were done in black and white acrylic on black clay paper.  Each student posed for a few b&w photos and used one or more of these as the basis for her or his painting.  In the photograph of students working on the right, you can see my teacher sample portrait on the far left.
Untitled, 1998
Jen, a Spiral Workshop student
Bleach, white chalk, and charcoal on black paper
Untitled, 1998
Marco, a Spiral Workshop student
Bleach, white chalk, and charcoal on black paper
    My Spiral Workshop class was on chiaroscuro, the high-contrast method of creating three-dimensional looking objects on a two-dimensional surface popularized during the Rennaissance by such artists as Leonardo Da Vinci.  On the first day of class, the student-artists created these stunning works based on the Surrealist principal of the Paranoic-Critical Method.
    Wearing plastic garbage bags to protect their clothes, the students dripped, drizzled, splashed, and otherwise applied a solution of bleach to their black paper.  When the bleach had dried, the students looked in to the randomly generated imagery to see what was there.  Using white chalk and charcoal, they enhanced the images they found in their work.
Note:  The photos above do not really do the works justice.  Regular black construction paper actually bleaches to rich gold and brown tones.  I highly recommend you try this at home!
I did my student teaching in a small public charter school in Chicago called Best Practice High School.             
    That's me helping a student.  I almost never draw on kids' work, so this is a rare photo!   Generally, I feel kids learn more by doing it themselves, so I draw on tracing paper or a separate sheet to demonstrate a solution to the problem which they may or may not use.
    Based on the work of Faith Ringgold, this paper quilt represents the hopes and dreams of some of the students I taught at Best Practice.
More recently, in the spring of 2002, I taught two classes through the North Lawndale Learning Community (NLC).  At Gregory School, I worked with third and fourth graders twice a week on mosaics after their academic after-school program.  They democratically came up with the theme of "What is Most Important in Life" to unify their work.  Some of their answers to the problem included:  Home; Family; and, African American Heritage.
Here are some of the mosaics and small quiltworks on display.
The other class I taught was a multigenerational quilting class on Saturdays at Chalmers School.  The class was open to all students, their families, and the community at large.  This meant that I had students aged 7 to 62 years old!  Individuals in the class each made their own hot pad as an introduction to the processes of crazy quilting.  Then we worked together to create a wall-hanging for the school.  Each person contributed her or his favorite/best ability to the final project, so that one person pieced the square, another embroidered, and so on.
Untitled (Potholder)
et alia, Kuumba Quilting Workshop
Home (Mosaic Breakfast Tray)
Ashley and Danielle, Mosaic Workshop
Some of the students' work from both classes was sold at auction in May at the NLC Benefit Gala.  Items were sold in pairs:  a stool with a picture frame, or a breakfast tray with a hot pad.  My friend and colleage, Jamie, and I had the dubious distinction of showing off the work to the bidding audience.  I was proud of kids, but I am "Not a Pretty Girl;" nor is Jamie.
My Home (Mosaic Stool/Table)
Melvina, Mosaic Workshop
Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast Tray
et alia, Mosaic Workshop
The Parrot
Mrs. Lolita Brandon
et alia, Kuumba Quilting Workshop
Using the work I did in the Spiral Workshop a few years ago as a jumping off point, Mary Wheatley and I directed students in the NLCArt Camp 2002 in July.  During the two week day camp, students visited cultural sites around Chicago, participated in and taught mini-workshops, and created a 16-panel self-portrait portable mural which was installed in the NLC office space.
During the first week, the students participated in a series of mini-workshops in which they learned different print-making techniques.  They each learned about potato stamps, lino-cuts, cardboard prints, and photocopied posters.  Some students also made spray-paint stencils.  The students printed on paper, and some later applied their designs to their mural boards.
On one of our field trips, we visited the Peace Museum at the Garfield Park field house (the Gold Dome).  This inspired the students to make photocopied posters promoting peace in their homes, their neighboorhood, the United States, and the world.  Using wheat paste, we postered a few-block area around the NLC office.  A Palestinian store owner was very interested in the students' work and allowed us to hang a large number of posters on the outside wall of his store.
The second week of camp featured a mini-workshop day in which students chose the classes they wished to attend.  Some of the workshops were even led by students, such as sewing (right) and origami (below right).  In keeping with the spirit of NLCArt Camp 2002, students applied the techniques they learned in these workshops to their mural boards later in the week.
At the end of the first week, each student got a 4' x 4' board of 1/4 inch plywood which she or he would contribute to the final reconfigurable mural.  Each student selected a candid portrait of her or himself as the basis for her or his section of the mural.  The photos were photocopied onto transparencies and projected onto the boards.  The students painted their portraits in cool colors.

When the painting was complete, students began sketching ideas for the completion of the board in their sketchbooks.  Their sketches included elements from the mini-workshops in which they participated, influences from the field trips we took, and new ideas.  The results were a series of unique, but thematically and visually connected panels which can be displayed in any number of configurations.
On the last day of class, the students helped install the hardware necessary to mount the mural sections on the wall.  The also created displays of their other work, complete with signs explaining the processes they used.  They invited their families to come view their work and share a meal.  The reception was well attended.
table of contents --  guestbook --  email me
drawing -- painting -- photography -- sculpture -- web-based art -- with students
All text and images 2002
Sarah Joy Liles