After drawing the head on a sheet of paper, a high school student from Ranch Dominguez Preparatory School (RDPS) folds the paper to hide his drawing then passes to a classmate who draws the torso, who folds the piece again and then passes on to another who draws the legs. After repeating the process four times, a unique piece of “surprise art” is unveiled.
The students were being taught an art technique called “exquisite corpse” to learn how to create collaboratively. Prominent Los Angeles visual and performing artist Mario Ybarra, Jr. was teaching the technique to the nearly 50 CSUDH, high school, and college students during Praxis Studio’s first Youth Community Forum at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) on Nov. 30 in the Loker Student Union. Prior to the project, the community college and RDPS students received a tour of the campus, the University Art Gallery, and the Art and Design Department.
“This teaches collaborative drawing in a quick way. At the end, there’s this interesting surprise rendering that everyone has worked on,” said Ybarra. “I believe that in the 21st Century art education is shifting, from having managers to having leaders—leaders who are part of the team, not dictating what happens within the team. That’s what students need to learn to solve problems, in art and in life.”
Ybarra is the first of four Praxis Studio artists-in-residence; prominent L.A.-based artists and designers who set up shop at CSUDH and create workshops and projects throughout campus to teach art to local underserved students.
“Collaboration was the crux of my lesson plan. There is this myth that artists work alone, creating as a singular entity,” said Ybarra. “But throughout history, such as during the Renaissance, artists had apprentices and worked in studios with a lot of other people.”
Praxis Studio, a one-year extracurricular, cross-disciplinary arts and design program, was developed by Devon Tsuno, assistant professor in CSUDH’s Art and Design Department, in partnership with arts nonprofit Big City Forum. The program is funded through a $40,000 grant from the California Arts Council as part of its 2016 Creative California Communities program.
Open to the public, local youth participating in Praxis Studio interact with professionals in art, design, and community organizing, especially those—like Ybarra—whose work intersects with issues directly related to social impact and responsibility. Praxis Studio also provides undergraduate research fellowships to eight CSUDH students majoring in art, design, or art history to participate in each of the four artist-in-residence projects, as well as professional artist panels that offer attendees a better understanding of career opportunities in creative disciplines.
The forum also featured a panel of 10 different RDPS students who participated in workshops and projects taught by Ybarra starting in October 2016. Each of the students described their experiences in the program to their classmates in the audience. Then the audience moved over to art tables and began the exquisite corpse project, which was monitored by the 10 students from the workshop, who created their own writing-focused exquisite corpse projects early in the month.
“This project really taught me how to focus my mind on tasks that I’m doing. When you work with other people, you really get a chance to share ideas and create unique art that is much different than what you would of come up with on your own,” Meris Delarment, a junior at RDPS who participated in the Ybarra’s workshop. “This was a great way to see what kids can come up with as a group.”