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Art Teacher at Indian School Takes a Novel Approach

Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

Michael Hollis has been teaching art at Noli Indian School in San Jacinto, California for the last five years. However, not long after he started there, he realized that in order to spark the students’ interest and develop their innate talents, he needed to take a different approach.

He therefore decided to take a lesson from their Native American Indian forefathers and in the same way that they would tell stories using their jewelry and pictographs; he decided to use everyday items and apply art to them rather than simply using paper.

For example, Hollis taught students the process for silk screening and how to airbrush, and then using those skills they learned how to turn T shirts into works of art. Another idea he had was rather than giving them paper to paint on, he gave them blank skateboards on which to showcase their work.

He taught them how to make masks from rubber, all the way from start to finish using wig stands to create a face followed by making a mold from plaster then finally pouring latex into it to make the mask. Not only was that project fun to do, but the students had to learn facial anatomy using precision measurements to ensure the mask fit properly and with the eyeholes in the right place.

The students all love his approach and Steven Mirelez said that he is doing things he has never done before, as did 18 year old Ben Lindsey, who also said that the art class at Noli was much better than the previous school he had attended. Bailey Trueax has been at the school for three years, and being both Navajo and Chippewa, she feels that she can express her natural talent through the art classes.

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