Teaching Artist Residency with Jessie Simmons and Edison Elementary’s Art Club
We recently caught up with rostered teaching artist and ceramicist Jessie Simmons as she led a residency with the Art Club at Edison Elementary in Erie. Jessie worked one-on-one with 15 students in 3rd-5th grade.
One of the primary goals of this special after-school programming is to offer students a chance to engage in art forms that they don’t have access to during their normal school day. As an experienced teaching artist, Jessie helped students to thoughtfully engage with a medium that was new to them - clay sculpting. Throughout the course of the program, students had the chance to create several new sculptures of their own all while learning more about the concepts of form, color, movement, and texture.
We asked Jessie a few questions about the residency and what the process meant to her and the students:
Q: What was your favorite part of this residency and why?
A: Working with this particular group was rewarding because it was the first time these students touched and sculpted with clay. For me to simply pull out a bag of clay and let them experience getting their hands dirty was a thrill for them in and of itself. But the fun didn’t end there. Once the students had a greater understanding of the possibilities and process of working with this material, their creativity, playfulness, and self-expression skyrocketed.
Q: What was one of the most memorable moments from this experience?
A: Children (like anyone else) make mistakes in clay. But when they are able to go about fixing or resolving the issues themselves, their confidence and self-esteem grow. There were countless moments like these that occurred over the course of this residency, and it is so exciting to witness.
Q: What was one key takeaway for the students because of this project?
A: I hope the biggest takeaway was that the students realized their ability to change something with their own two hands. Manipulating clay can be a simple exercise, but it comes with an unspoken knowledge that one’s actions can influence the outside world and the things around you. Sculpting with clay gave these students a sense of command and freedom to make what they want, but at the same time to think about their actions carefully-- is this piece too heavy?, do I want to make this taller?, how should this pig snout look?, and so on.