As part of Al-Bustan’s continued partnership with Northeast High School, we offered a visual art residency funded in part by the School District of Philadelphia’s Department of Comprehensive Arts Education and Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership (which is funded by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency).
Teaching Artist Tremain Smith led a series of 14 classes with two groups of high school students. One group was an ESOL class with NEHS teacher Patricia Ryan and other group was an Art class with NEHS teacher Harmony Thompson.
Students learned about the principles of Arab/Islamic art. They first mastered the geometry of the square and the octagon with the tools of pencil, compass and straightedge, then created a grid from overlapping circles. They worked collectively to create two panels of encaustic painting using four and eight-point geometric constructions. One group incorporated language characters and arabesque forms into the geometric design, and carved the word “Peace” into the wax (written in every language represented by the students) and rubbed oil paint into the incised marks. Their compositions repeat the eight-point star to form a cross & star pattern often referred to as “The Breath of the Compassionate”. Encaustic is an ancient technique of painting using hot beeswax & pigment. The students worked together to build up the layers using wax and squares of colored paper. Their final layer consists of encaustic paint (pigmented wax) filling the crosses in a seven-color design. Their artwork is made up of the elements of line, shape, color and represent the principles of unity, repetition, rhythm and balance.
The panels will be hung in NEHS hallways — a wonderful testament to the beautiful, creative efforts of the students, under the guidance of Tremain Smith and the support of their teachers. BIG Thanks to all those you who participated and supported this effort!
See photos of the progression of their art-making…