Guest Blogger Tina Aguilar teaches Humanities and Cultural Studies at Brookhaven College School of the Arts.
This week’s Q&A features a pair of arts advocates: Doug Clark, an artist and art teacher at Fort Worth Independent School District’s Diamond Hill Elementary School, and Guy Bruggeman, DFW International Airport Art Program Specialist. We spoke about the current Student Medallion Exhibit and their collaboration. This year, Diamond Hill Elementary School will exhibit original medallion interpretations. Communities in Schools students, led by Project Manager Michelle Patterson at Hoover Elementary School in Azle, will also participate. It is the third year of the airport’s Student Medallion Exhibit. Schools receive a presentation about the art collection and how artists use relevant disciplines with their creative process.
If you’ve never been to see DFW’s art collection, it boasts a phenomenal compilation of commissioned local, national and international artists. The collection of more than 30 artworks is housed inside the International Terminal D of DFW Airport. Four sculptures, courtesy of the Nasher Sculpture Center, rest in the DFW Sculpture Garden near the arrival level at the Terminal D parking garage.
Tina Aguilar: Can you tell me how the two of you connected?
Guy Bruggeman: Originally I wrote letters to the superintendents of Dallas and the Fort Worth Independent School Districts. It was a nice letter…and it just explained about how we were trying to do more towards community service and trying to promote the art at the airport, and that includes art tours…and the Fort Worth one got passed down from the superintendent to [Doug’s] boss, Beverly Fletcher (head of the art department for Fort Worth Independent School District). … She said if I could get my presentation ready…they were having all of the art teachers attend a meeting. … I had a couple of people who were interested in the presentation as well as the optional art project we were just trying to develop, and Doug was one of them that actually followed through with it.
T.A.: Can you tell me what sparked your interest when you noticed the presentation?
Doug Clark.: Well, one of the things is our kids do get to the museums in Fort Worth, we have field trips to them, but a lot of times the art teachers don’t get to go, because we have classes we have to cover while they’re gone. So I never get to go to any of the things where they’re actually seeing art. So I was excited, because this was actually going to be bringing in like an art program or an art collection to show them, where I was going to be able to be there with them and to discuss it with them while it was going on … Also, I was not familiar that they even had an art collection …so it was like a learning experience for me and the students the first time.
G.B.: As a matter of fact, I was still working on the presentation and sent it to Doug and had him refine it for me. At that point I was used to talking to adults more so. I have a presentation for adults, and it’s completely different, and it actually is more. Literally, we call it a virtual walking tour, and you just sit back on the couch and I show you the artwork. I explain who the artist is, what it’s made from, what the artist inspiration was, a little biography. But for students, we wanted to approach it from a different aspect, and so we tried to focus on the school subject they were taking.
D.C.: Like math and science.
G.B.: In a lot of ways, the artwork is inspired by different types of things: geography, Texas history…history itself, mathematically, there’s a bunch of them that are mathematical formulas.
T.A.: Doug, how do you prep the students on making their medallions after having Guy come to speak?
D.C.: Afterwards, we talk about it and talk about what sort of subject matter you know you should do when you get your medallion. I’ve started giving them now like some smaller page size…where they could do their sketch first and they can design their medallion first, just like an artist would do the sketch before they actually go to the canvas to work. And that’s just kind of teaching them also a studio skill of thinking about what you’re going to do and working it out first, as far as like your color, design and how you want it to fit in the space. And then from there, once they have a design they like… you’ll take that image and blow that up into a larger size and decide what medium they want to do it in. … From there, usually a couple of class periods to do the finished one.
T.A.: That critical thinking, the idea that you are part of a process, creating your artwork, using part of a process to create your artwork does tie into other areas. As you said, the math, the science, the geography. Do you find that students respond to the art when they have more information about it? How does that work?
D.C.: I think they are more interested in things that they can relate to or that they’ve heard a little bit about. … One of the medallions, like the one that shows the mockingbird (by Billy Hassell), once they realize that’s the state bird of Texas, and if they’ve studied that already in their classes … then they know about it and they’re as curious about the plants around it. Because they know the state tree is the pecan tree and those look like blueberries or something … they’re kind of thinking it should be like pecans or something.
T.A.: The students also decorated some panels in the rental car center. How did that come about?
G.B.: Well, it was originally Lenanne Nance, who’s the manager here. She didn’t want white walls in here … she would prefer to have something that “welcomes people to Texas” and that’s what she said – that’s her original thought. So I said, “I think I’ve got somebody who’s more than willing to have his students create artwork for us.”
D.C.: We talked about what were things that represented Texas. First, we talked about Six Flags of Texas. Kids always like drawing animals, or most of them do anyway, and it does tie in with sometimes a school … So I thought that would be neat to do with them, but just strictly with Texas, because it is such a diverse state and has different climatic regions … and just coming into the airport you wouldn’t know all those different parts were out there.
T.A.: Can you talk a little bit about what is here at the airport? I’m not sure a lot of people realize there is art here.
G.B.: Yeah, a lot of people don’t, especially since it’s confined to Terminal D, which is the newest international terminal. When they decided to build Terminal D, they incorporated a percent of the money allocated for the arts. And so they formed a committee and created this art program and went out in search of artwork, primarily artists … It’s a very unique collection; it’s not Texas themed … Our collection is wide open.
T.A.: International, diverse, local, as well as national.
G.B.: And we did try to promote a lot of the local artists. All the medallions were done by local artists as well as the Skylink Station floors connecting to the different terminals.
T.A.: Can you tell me about how the students feel about having their art exhibited in this gallery location?
D.C.: They’re always really excited about it. And one of the first things I tell them about it is that their art will be framed. I am speaking about the medallions again. And at the end of summer, when we get it back, they can come back and pick it up and they will get to keep the frames, so they can take it and hang it in their own rooms at home. And so for most of them who have never had anything of their own framed before, that’s big. That’s a very exciting thing for them and a motivating factor to really urge them to do their best … And then as far as the panels, they are very excited about that knowing that they’ll be hung up for forever.
T.A.: And maybe having their art in the airport will encourage them to become professional artists?
D.C.: That’s one of the things I always tell them. If you have a résumé … this is your first art show that you are participating in, and it’s going to be in a public place. I always tell them I was never in an art show when I was your age. So this is really a neat opportunity, because people from all over the world will be seeing you, and it tells something about you and what you create.
The Student Medallion Exhibit is on view through the end of summer. The Texas Regional Panels can be seen at the DFW Rental Car Center. If you’re interested in the DFW Art Collection, please contact Guy Bruggeman at [email protected]. Doug Clark’s sculptures can be seen at The Gallery at the Frame Up in Fort Worth and David Dike Fine Art in Dallas.