Tween Art at EMU

. June 5, 2017.
Kara Busboom’s Canton students 
and their portraits.
Kara Busboom’s Canton students and their portraits.

Eastern Michigan University’s teachers of teachers of art

Founded as Michigan State Normal School in 1849 Eastern Michigan University is to this day Michigan’s preeminent trainer of K-12 teachers. Eastern’s most impressive area of expertise is in their instruction of teachers of art. An annual highlight is the double exhibition “Dangerous Minds & Exploring Big Ideas: The Art of Giving Voice to Michigan’s Youth” which took place in late May. The “Dangerous Minds” half of the show featured the work of high school students in Washtenaw and surrounding counties with winners splitting $6,700 in scholarship money. That’s a lot of milkshake moola after a hard day in the studio. The “Exploring Big Ideas” portion of the exhibition gave reign to the younger graders, including tweens who are transitioning in art as in life from gangly to pretty much adult.

The amazing Dr. Cam

Overseeing it all is the amazing faculty curator Camilla L. McComb, Ph.D., Professor of Visual Arts Education, or “Dr. Cam” as she is affectionately known to her students. Dr. Cam is a widely published researcher in art education, a sought-after speaker at national and international professional conferences and an award-winning artist in her own right. She brought to this year’s show a special professionalism by having all the “Big Ideas” entries professionally matted by Karin Hancherlain-Amos of Nelson Amos Studios in Ypsilanti.


Tweens exploring “big ideas” through art

One of Dr. Cam’s acolytes is Kara Busboom. Busboom is a Master’s degree student and teacher of nine years at a charter school in Canton. Dr. Cam encouraged her to research a culture that her students could identify with, which wasn’t hard since 60% of her fifth grade art students are first generation American citizens with parents born in India. She asked her students to do portraits of a parent using the proportion and shading skills that they learned in class, and then to “interview” the parent to create a background for their portrait. Busboom told me, “tweens are still open to expressing themselves without being self-conscious. They still light up when you give them recognition and beam when you take a picture of them with their artwork. They are truly my favorite age group to teach.”

Another Dr. Cam student is Lori Burnham. She teaches art to sixth and seventh graders at Boulan Park Middle School in Troy. Her students, who are represented in the “Big Ideas” show, were asked to use collage, watercolor and sharpies to come up with superheros or villains. They even incorporated color themes and back stories that utilized the 14 elements of art and principles of design. One thing that was clear from this exhibition was the broad benefit of art education. Schools that minimize it do so at their peril. After all, life is short, art long.

Parents Sidenote: matting is the expensive part. Slap a frame on your kid’s matted art and you’ll have a family keepsake for generations to come.