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African Mask Making - Ceramic Arts Program: A hands-on exploration into clay mask tradition and design

Feb 13, 2020 05:21PM ● By Julie Maxwell Allen

submitted by: GRSD

         As part of the Hamilton Elementary School visiting artist in residence program students in 4th grades had the opportunity to observe work of a professional artist, sculptor/potter/ Mr. Cliff Mendelson.  Cliff Mendelson has been a teacher and practicing artist in the community.  He has taught at Parsons School of Design, Greenwich House Pottery, and Hunter College, and currently at the Westchester Art Workshop.
               Thanks to the sponsorship of BOCES, and PTA cultural arts, and principal, Ms. Irene Pierdes, this Artist- in - Residence workshop empowered the students with knowledge concerning how masks are designed and its connection to various cultures.  It provided a firsthand experience involving a working craftsman and the original works that were created by using his imagination and skill.
Artist – in – Residence, Cliff Mendelson shared his expertise and talent as he demonstrates the art of creating pottery by hand.   Students enjoyed learning about the process and effort involved in creating ceramics pieces and gained an appreciation for the skill involved to make any work of Art.  Through this excellent program, students were able to witness someone who succeeds at what he enjoys most while turning it into his life’s work.
Students were exposed to seeing an artist create original works of art in an atmosphere that encouraged their inquiry, and involvement.  Conversation and dialog are encouraged in light of how design (form and function) is an integral part of the creative process.   Students created their own individual clay masks using the style, techniques of the African artists, symbols, patterns, and imagery will be utilized in their own works to explore this African tradition, rich in ceramic history.
Day In Clay
Samples of finished works were discussed in light of the history of art in various cultures and how its applications are alive in the world today. I.e. Native American, Greek, and Asian influences.  Students left feeling inspired as a result of the hands-on demonstrations of Cliff Mendelson resulting in the student’s ceramic works in progress.
Thanks to the principal, Irene Pierdes and art teacher, Kim Menke, they will be available for viewing as well as photos of the workshop that will be on exhibit during the art show.
About Day in Clay –
The ‘Day in Clay’ program brings the visiting artist to the school and demonstrates various aspects of the potter’s wheel and how it relates to the history of ceramics as well as connecting the student to his or her own potential in this creative medium.   Various techniques are taught as well as slide shows depicting historical work up to the present and how the ceramic art can express the human condition of today.  He likes to incorporate a hands-on approach as well so that everyone has the opportunity to feel what he experiences with the clay.
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