Creative, Special Book Wreaths

By: Shannon Boatwright 

the-1st-book-wreath-i-made

I had the privilege of learning a new craft before the holidays, thanks to a dear colleague. One day at school, at the start of the year, I happened to see a beautiful, very unique wreath made of the pages of a book displayed in our library. I thought it was fabulous! I discovered that my colleague had actually made it. She offered to teach me how to make one. I took her up on her offer and in time discovered what a joy it was to create something so cool, unique and special. And the interesting thing is that this particular craft is so inexpensive! Yes, it is time consuming, twisting the pages and getting everything positioned just right to make all the pieces come together into a lovely creation worthy of being displayed. But it is definitely a cheap project. I bought a few books from the dollar store, choosing books that had good pages. And also from the dollar store, I bought foam board and some more glue sticks for the glue gun I already had at home. And that’s it! One wreath costs me less than $5.

a-collection-of-book-wreaths-before-they-were-given-as-gifts

Creating these lovely book wreaths really was a labor of love. The expense is not in the materials, but in the time. I spent several hours over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday making these particular wreaths to give as Christmas gifts. I only wish I’d had the time to make more! There are so many fabulous ways you can create wreaths with the pages of a book! Or, as you’ll see in my picture, a book wreath can be made with sheet music as well. I was especially proud of this wreath that I made for my Mama.

the-book-wreath-made-of-sheet-music

So if you’re the creative type and love to take the time to make handmade special things to give to others, you ought to give this project a try! You can research them online and find all sorts of amazing ideas for your own creations.  Here’s to getting crafty and putting time and love into special handmade gifts!

The Midlands Arts Conservatory

Providing a Free, Public Education that Combines Arts and Academics

By: Shannon Boatwright

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Just one year ago, in January of 2016, I wrote this blog entry sharing news of a mission to bring an arts conservatory to Columbia, SC. With great zeal, I shared my support for this mission and why the arts are such a huge part of creating a quality, top notch education for the young minds of today.

“Amazing things happen and great knowledge is attained when the arts help to bring core school subjects to life. The joy of the arts is that they can be integrated into every subject. In a perfect educational world, every school would have a fine arts program and arts integration would be a part of every school’s curriculum. Students and teachers would only benefit; there are no negative aspects whatsoever, only the deepening of understanding. To those who recognize the benefits of, engage in and truly support the arts, bravo to you! And thank you.”
– Shannon Elizabeth Boatwright

I am thrilled to help announce that people have rallied behind the mission of the Midlands Arts Conservatory (MAC) and an outpouring of support is helping to make it a reality! Please help me continue to support the mission and share the progress of MAC. There are informational meetings being held this coming weekend that parents and families can attend to get all their questions answered. If you know of any student in the area with a passion for the arts, absolutely do not hesitate to share this info with them! For more details, please read the information below and share it in every way that you can. Let’s help make the arts shine so that young minds can be enriched, deeper understanding can be attained and creativity can thrive!

Arts Charter School to Open in Columbia:
Midlands Arts Conservatory

A committee of arts professionals, educators, parents and community members is moving forward with plans to open an arts charter school in Columbia. The Midlands Arts Conservatory (MAC) will have a focus on the visual arts, theater, dance and music.

mac-logo-squareThe school will hold two informational meetings for parents and the community: on Saturday, January 7th at the North Main branch of the Richland Public Library at 4:00pm, and on Sunday, January 8th in the second floor theatre at the main branch of the Richland Public Library at 3:00.

MAC will provide a free, public education that effectively combines arts and academics. The school plans to open in the Fall of 2017 with 6th and 7th grades, and will add a grade level each year, reaching 12th grade in 2022. The Midlands Arts Conservatory will be free for any South Carolina resident student in the appropriate grade level who has an interest in the arts and is willing to meet the high academic expectations of the school.

The school will be staffed with highly qualified arts and academic instructors in an environment that provides training, exposure and practical application in the arts and the integration of arts into the academics of the school. The student-teacher ratio in classes will be no higher than 20 to 1 and lower in specialized arts areas. MAC will have small group and individualized instruction in the arts with a wide spectrum of academic support available.

The MAC Planning Committee members understand the importance of a high-quality arts education for young people. They want to ensure that every child in the Midlands has the opportunity to experience the power of creative self-expression.

For more information, contact J Britt at (803)-630-1622 or (803)-630-1MAC; visit http://midlandsartsconservatory.org; or follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MidlandsArtsCon.

Is Your Ideal Daily Routine Achievable?

By: Shannon Boatwright

hmmm-a-long-walk-everyday-sounds-so-lovely

I recently read an article in the September 2016 issue of Readers Digest. It completely fascinated me and well, frustrated me. The article is titled “The Daily Routines of Geniuses,” written by Sarah Green Carmichael from the Harvard Business Review. She talks about how she has spent her life searching for the ideal daily routine and how a book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work fascinated her. She shares all of these fabulous tidbits of information about artists’ daily habits… artists ranging from Jane Austin to Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Beethoven, Ernest Hemingway, Arthur Miller, Mozart, Andy Warhol and Picasso. She’s right, “the routines of these thinkers are strangely compelling.” Many of them took daily walks, sometimes for up to three hours! And that was part of their daily routine, part of what helped provide inspiration and rejuvenation for their inner spirit, their mindset, their physical wellbeing, for their talents.

It is compelling indeed, mostly because I cannot imagine ever having the time to take long walks like these late greats did, much less do it daily! Many of these genius minds would spend their mornings engaging in their main talent, whether painting, writing, composing, etc, then they’d spend the afternoon doing “busywork.” As I read the article, the entire time I couldn’t stop thinking, yea that was THEN! Way back then when there were no constant, overwhelming sources of communication and interruptions of everyday modern life. No emails, texts, distracting Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram photos… no absurd job requirements, work hours, traffic, endless bills… I could go on and on. But let’s face it, way back in the day, life was flat out simpler.

I’ve written in the past about one of my mantras, which is Carpe Diem… Seize the Day! I do my best in this modern day and age to seize my days, making the very best of them. It’s not always easy and some days it seems near impossible. So I must admit that when I think of the days when some of our famous artistic idols lived and created, there is a part of me that is incredibly jealous of the time they had to focus on their physical, mental and artistic well-being. Now, I know some of them worked better in other circumstances and under certain influences, but the daily routines of so many of our late greats truly were what we would call a luxury nowadays. I start to think… how could I actually achieve that kind of time? Time in my daily life that would allow me to take long walks and rejuvenate my body inside and out. When I really think about it, I’m dumbfounded! I figure I’d either have to win the lottery or become a really well-off retiree. Or I’d have to never sleep. And I promise you, getting no sleep is not a possible part of my life if I want to actually stay alive.

So how do we conquer the modern day nonsense that keeps so many of us from living that dream-daily-routine, blessed life? What would be your ideal daily routine? Quite honestly, in this very moment, I’m so exhausted from a long day teaching, among many other things, my mind is mush and I just don’t even know where to begin to answer that question for myself. Maybe a super long, relaxing walk would do the trick. If only I didn’t have to get up in a few hours when my alarm goes off way too early tomorrow morning.

#Popshakespeare

By: Shannon Boatwright

There is a new phenomenon taking place in which creative people are putting a Shakespearean twist on pop songs. It is awesome!! Even for those non-Shakespeare fans, it’s great fun. For those of us who are total lovers of Shakespeare and his vast works, this pop Shakespeare project is a fabulous treat! It all started with a trend called #15secondshakespeare in which actors videotape themselves reciting 15 seconds of lines from a popular song and performing it Shakespearean style. If you Google “15 seconds of Shakespeare” you’ll see a collection of different examples from famous actors.

One of the English teachers at my school shared the popular concept with me, with a note that said, “You have to do this with your students!” Well, she was right. What a fun project!

I personally thought 15 seconds was just not enough time to really pop it out Shakespeare style, so I changed the time limit to one minute or less. I decided to put my own twist on the fun and rename it #popshakespeare. I presented the concept to my honors students and gave them the opportunity to submit their videos. Because I only have 9 weeks of regular Drama classes and can only squeeze in a limited amount of lessons with my 7th and 8th graders, I actually had those students do the Pop Shakespeare experiment live in front of the class. Talk about interesting and fun – it was definitely entertaining! It was a great opportunity to sneak in a quick lesson on Shakespeare, and to introduce them to one of the greatest writers of all time and how cool his works can be! For now, I have my honors drama stars submitting their “popped out” Shakespeare pieces via video since I do not get my honors classes until the 2nd semester. I’m still getting video submissions and love seeing my students have so much fun with this project!

I’m sharing two of my fabulous 7th grade honors drama students’ #popshakespeare videos here. Keely and Tripp are both such talented young actors and I absolutely cannot wait to work with them next semester! Check out their videos and a couple of mine here, so you can get a taste of what this awesome l’il performance project is all about. 🙂

Keely’s “Sugar”

 

Tripp’s “Eye of the Tiger”

 

Mrs. Shannon’s “Ice Ice Baby”

 

Mrs. Shannon’s “Wrecking Ball”

 

For more videos, head over to the complete #popshakespeare YouTube Playlist.

If you’re so inspired and inclined, this #popshakespeare project makes for a really fun family activity! My daughter absolutely loved it. She kept saying, “Mama, you gotta do this song!”, requesting song after song that would be cool to “Shakespeare out.” Each popular song I “Shakespeared” was either her idea or my son’s. My girl did some of her own videos and she and I actually did some together. We even got my son and husband in on the fun! Several of my fellow teachers did their own videos too. A lot of fun is to be had when it comes to getting creative together! Smiles all around as you engage in performing a part of a popular song Shakespearean style! Who would’ve thought?!! 🙂

So if you happen to create your own #popshakespeare masterpiece, please do share it with me! Leave a comment below and let’s share. I’m thinking about creating a YouTube channel dedicated to #popshakespeare so we can all share our Shakespeare pop coolness.

“All the world’s a stage…”

– William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”

Summer Fun Baskets

By: Leah Prescott

This year we are taking a true summer break, free from formal studies. I am sure this won’t always be the case as we sometimes have subjects to work on over the summer or some catch-up from days lost over the year. Still, while “book learning” is fun, nothing can take the place of carefree summer days filled with playing in the sprinkler and hunting worms. I’m looking forward to my kids wearing themselves out in the sunshine and teaching them some new board games when the South Carolina heat gets unbearable.

Summer fun basket

On the other hand, I want to do all I can to preserve the knowledge my 8-year-olds have gained over this school year and get those little thinking muscles primed for third grade. I’ve been thinking of ways to help encourage learning without major preparation or angst for any of the parties involved. Today I wanted to share one of these ideas with you. Whether you homeschool or not, this is a simple idea that is easily adapted to many ages. Perhaps it isn’t revolutionary, but it’s easy…and sometimes that’s better.

Summer fun basket

I was pretty proud of myself for cleaning out our entire library area by the end of the school year. I had to prepare for our annual book sale, so my arm was twisted into action. I took stock of our materials, filed away completed work for our records, sold some unneeded items, and tossed a lot. All the pencils found their way back to the pencil boxes and I discovered that we actually own one billion crayons, which surprised me since the perfect colors always seem to be eluding my little artists.

Summer fun basket

After the big cleanup, I set aside a large basket for each child and started filling them with “summer fun.” There are only two rules for the contents of the baskets: they must be fun and they must require little or no supervision. Here are some of the things I added to these baskets:

Summer fun basket

  1. Pencil box with basic supplies: glue stick, crayons, pencils, scissors, ruler
  2. Clipboard and legal pads (My children love clipboards. Any writing project is instantly twice as enticing if a clipboard can be utilized.)
  3. Flash master handheld game (electronic flash cards)
  4. Construction paper, stickers, and stencils
  5. “Fun” workbooks (We like the ones in the Target dollar spot.)
  6. Three Ring Binder with cardstock (My girls like to “scrap book” with magazine cuttings.)
  7. Play-Doh or silly putty

Those are the basics that I added to start out. It’s nice to continue to refresh the basket throughout the summer. A new paperback book, card game, or puzzle would be fun to add. Bead kits, rainbow looms or embroidery kits for older children are perfect. I’m looking for a paint-with-water coloring book for my preschooler.

Summer fun basket

This is also a nice place to stick those prizes from Chick-fil-a that would otherwise get lost at the bottom of your purse or the freebie stickers that come in the mail. Really, the options are endless and can be tailored to your child’s interests or needs.

The only “rule” I give the kids about these baskets is that they clean up after themselves. Summer is the time when I really try to crack down on housework and form better habits, and the whole family has to be on board. (If anyone has any tips for teaching my 3-year-old to clean up after himself, they will be humbly received.) Of course, if you have any ideas for easy summer learning, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Success in Entertainment

By: Shannon Shull

“I love watching school drama performances. I have seen many over the years at middle schools and high schools from many different districts. The drama performance from Friday was by far the best performance I have ever seen. It was so much fun to watch the performance, it was very creative, and I just didn’t want it to end. I was so proud of the students, but really impressed with how amazing this production was. I doubt any program in the state could compare.” 

It’s my second year of teaching in the public school arena and I somehow survived yet another enormous show. I took on the task of creating something truly entertaining while providing my 70 honors students with a fun learning experience. I about lost my sanity in the process, but hey, I guess any true, dedicated artist sacrifices their body and a level of sanity in order to create amazing things!

honors drama show

The quote above came from a respected fellow teacher that recently moved to our district. I was so pleasantly surprised to have him send this email not only to me, but to the principal of the school where I teach. Comments like these mean the world to me. Besides the standing ovation of an audience applauding your work, hearing the students brag about their incredible experience and listening to their parents thank you for all of your hard work, well…that certainly helps make the 70-hour work weeks leading up to the show a little easier to forgive and forget! And at the end of the show, upon completing all the bows of my young stars, a student proceeded to take the microphone from me and share lovely words about their teacher. Several of them passed the microphone around and spoke about how grateful they were for me – one even declaring that she was thankful that I taught her to embrace her weirdness and be confident in her talents. I cried as I felt validation for the hard work I’ve dedicated to teaching these kids!

Entertainment success

And the icing on the cake for me was the truly priceless gift of having my own children in the audience supporting me and seeing the fruits of my labor. Though I’m an artist and a teacher, I am a mother first and having my precious ones present to support me, well, let’s just say it helped to complete the moment. My babies know that I work incredibly hard on my shows and they adore my students, so it was important that they be able to see the finished product. Not to mention, I knew that this would be a show that they would actually like! This recent show was all about the 1980s and featured all sorts of 80s fun that is relatable to all ages. The thought of my own children not being able to come to my show was heartbreaking. My daughter had a make-up soccer game that threatened to keep her away. This was not easy on me, to say the least. Needless to say, when I saw my parents bring both my babies in before the show started, I broke down crying. It was a joyful cry at the sight of them, knowing my angels would be there to share this big moment with me!

Me and my girl, Mina

The greatest compliments I received all night, that truly made my heart swell, came after the show, when I asked my son what he thought of the show. My son, who is incredibly hard to please and typically has no desire to see any live show of any sort, responded with total enthusiasm. “It was the best show ever!!!!” And on the car ride home, my daughter said to me, “Mama, it was totally worth it.” I responded, asking her what was totally worth it? She said, “Missing my soccer game to come to your awesome show!”

Yep, gold…absolute stars and pixie dust… treasures. That was indeed the icing on the cake that took blood, sweat and lots of tears to create! It’s the little things, ya’ll. Entertainment success achieved. 🙂

Like Mother, Like Daughter

As a teenager, like most other teenage girls, I insisted that I would not grow up to be like my mother, Lee Malerich.  I suppose that’s easier said than done.  I invited my mom, a local artist who blogs at Waste As A Way Of Life, to comment on our similarities and talk about her artistic perspective:

Where should we start?  The very big ideas?  OK.

Artists do not only make art, they live it and in it.  Serious art reflects the ideas, attitudes, experiences and style of the artist.  These things are interwoven and inseparable.  And changeable, but usually the change is slow.  At least that is how it works for me.

Premise 1: Creating a style:  Being an artist(s) we don’t have the money that more traditionally employed people do.  We frequent thrift shops and flea markets, looking for shapes and textures and things to repurpose to live in our home.  We sniff out free things in the wind.  We develop friendships with like people and fund each other’s eccentricities.  Old things look good to us.

Being an artist

For instance, to me, the base of this enamel table in our kitchen is awesome.  The lines and shapes scream 1930s.  This table base helped me solve a financial problem in buying the tile for the kitchen, if you will notice the floor.  I bought the majority of the tile at a sidewalk sale at Lowe’s, but there was not enough for the big space of kitchen and great room.  So I laid tile “rugs” in each room, one under this table.  The tile under the table is lighter than the surrounding, and at each corner of the “rug” is a corresponding black tile (you can only see two black tiles in this image).  The rug tile was free, and the problem was solved.  The four black squares used in the corners integrate the tile rug with the table base.  The “rug” under the table is much more interesting than had the floor simply been one broad ecru plane.  So my finances dictate another way to create and push a style forward with lifestyle needs.

being an artist

We needed a shed to house our pool equipment, pool pump, and machinery related to our sprinkler system.  My love of cheap metal (notice the lamp on the stucco column) led us to buying a used grain bin to satisfy these needs, and it was very inexpensive.  We love the little silo that has an apex that looks like the top of a Coke bottle.

Premise 2:  We live in a world that is using up all its natural resources.  This disposable society cannot thrive.  Many, many artists choose to make their work out of waste materials because they are available, beautiful, and otherwise would be in the landfill.  These artists additionally are making visual statements that describe our recent decades.

We built a barn.  Some restlessness inside of me accepted a whole group of wooden windows from a contractor friend.  I put them under a roof.  His work often was replacing old wooden windows with vinyl ones, and he kept bringing me the rejects.  He would have been charged to put them in the dump, so the solution was good for everybody.

Constructing a barn

33 old windows for this barn – everyone saved a lot of money.  Their glass is wavy and beautiful, and since this is studio and storage space and not living space, they do the job just fine.  And of course, this is South Carolina and we live in a temperate part of the world.  Glenn later added the cool awning above the entry door.

Building a barn

I hope the case is made for using old stuff.  Here is where our similarities start.

like mother like daughter

My daughter Brady, influenced by my love of old things, found this door of windows at the dump and brought it home.  Neither one of us are beyond “diving.”  She often donates at the Goodwill at the same time she goes in to buy.  She installed this on the wall,  and of course there it was for me to see.  A window on a wall as art.  Hmmm.

Some years later, here is my sculptural work.  Before now, the windows had many other incarnations as I tried to use them.  I was getting too fancy.  For me, for now, it is mostly about the interplay of the windows, and bringing these sculptures way out from the wall.  It takes some time to feel one’s way.

mother daughter similarities

Isn’t experience and influence wonderful?