Teaching with Contemporary Art

Joy and Revolution: Talking with Adam Weiler of Ambrose, Part 2

Ambrose at work…

This week’s column follows up on last week’s post and features part two of my interview with Adam Weiler of Ambrose, an atypical after school club in Holland, Michigan. If you haven’t already, check them out. You may even want to try the Makers Dozen to go….

Joe Fusaro: So what does a typical afternoon at Ambrose involve? What’s an after school session like for you and the students?

Adam Weiler: Students trickle in after school. We have healthy snacks available for them to munch on and at 3:30 we start community time where students and leaders tell their best and worst parts of the previous week (dubbed “Happies & Crappies”). The first Thursday of the month we’re joined by a guest artist who kicks off a collaborative project based on a process and we like to have them join in on “Happies & Crappies” too. After this we invite the guest artist to share their story, portfolio, and some lessons learned along the way (including the importance of the business side of art). The meat of the workshops are hands on projects focusing on the processes the visiting artist is known for… Brainstorming. Design Thinking. Graphic or Product Design. Paper Cutting. Typography. Drawing. Photography, etc. We try to do a short 1 hour project and exploration to get a taste of a process and then the following weeks we execute a larger group project based on that process around a theme.

Adam Weiler working with young artists at Ambrose.

JF: Do you have a favorite part when it comes to working on this project?

AW: Hands down it’s the relationships. With students – seeing them grow to connect with volunteers, community members and career pathways; and with staff – having a team that sees experiential education and the potential it has to change the world for the better.

JF: And where do you see Ambrose in a few years?

AW: Our goal is to do the best we can with what we’ve got. For now that means continuing the local work of building relationships with community partners, refining the curriculum and honing the business side of the program. We’ve figured out what it takes to make it happen full time for our community so that’s what we’re aiming for. When I dream about the future I think it’d be amazing to see Ambrose pop up elsewhere: groups of artist-educators from New York or Atlanta using the model to support local chapters. Kids all over the place getting pumped about design, problem solving, creativity and entrepreneurship. That’s a long way off…but one can dream.

Contributor
Joe Fusaro is the senior education advisor for Art21, and has written Art21’s “Teaching with Contemporary Art” column since 2008. He is an exhibiting artist and visual arts chair for the Nyack Public Schools in New York; and an adjunct instructor for New York University’s Graduate Program in Art and Arts Professions.

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