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Traveling the world one art project at a time

Bailey Elementary art teacher Jessica Friso has spent the past two months teaching her students about world art. The world art unit culminated with an "Art Around the World" exhibit at the school earlier this month.

Students at Bailey Elementary took a trip around the world earlier this month - in art.

Bailey Elementary hosted an "Art Around the World" exhibit in the school's commons area, which displayed various art styles from around the world.

Bailey Elementary art teacher Jessica Friso has spent the past several months teaching students about different cultures and the art associated with those cultures.

Friso said she want to incorporate a large world art unit into the school's curriculum because the students are exposed mainly to Western art.

"A lot of times there's a focus on dead white men in art," she said. "I think as a district we're really trying to push past that and really trying to challenge ourselves to get more into the worldly art.

"We need to start somewhere and get these kids to realize that Woodbury is not the sole world."

Friso divided the world art unit into three sections - Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Additionally, Friso is in the process of teaching her students about American Indians.

During the Asian unit, Friso taught students about the Asian cultures and traditions through a variety of art projects including: Japanese kokeshi dolls, dragons, Indonesian shadow puppets, notan paper cutting, Japanese paper binding and paper cranes.

During the African unit, Friso mainly focused on the Egyptian culture, history and traditions, however she did talk a bit about Ghana as well.

Some of the art projects that students did during the African unit included: hieroglyphs, kente weaving, art associated with the afterlife and a project inspired by the African fruit calabash.

During the Latin American unit, Friso focused primarily on Mexico and the Day of the Dead through sugar skulls, paper flowers, Day of the Dead alters and Oaxacan animal art. Additionally, students learned about Guatemala and Mexico through yarn paintings and worry dolls.

During each unit, in addition to the projects, Friso took time to teach students about the various cultures, traditions, history and meanings in some of the art.

"There's so much symbolism around the world," she said.

Many of the projects that Friso's students did were simply inspired by a specific art style since it would be difficult to recreate an authentic piece of art.

"We are not from these other cultures, we don't have the skillfulness they do, so trying to recreate something they did is not really practical," she said.

Friso said she decided to display the art in a school exhibit because it gave the students a chance to be exposed to the other art styles.

"Each grade level learned specifically about one type of art, so they didn't get as in depth with the other projects," she said. "It's good for them to see the other projects and experience many other things from that culture.

"It's nice to have some critiques and observation of the other projects."

Friso said it is important to teach students about world art because it opens their eyes to the rest of the world and to the many cultures that can be found in the community.

"They quickly realize that Woodbury is not the only place in the world," she said. "They learn that this world is huge."

Additionally, Friso said studying world art is a benefit to students because it helps them make the connections between social studies and art.

"Art is history," she said. "So when they get to experience social studies on a more creative level, they really internalize it."

Friso said she hopes to continue teaching world art through multiple units every year. However, she said ideally she would be able to incorporate art throughout the whole year since there are so many different art forms throughout the world.

"I'd really like to stretch this out to a yearlong focus, but I'm just really trying to balance everything," she said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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