Engaging Students with Abstract Art


On November 22, 2017, CWP Teaching Artists Rabih Ahmed and Pamella Allen led the students of Bronx Academy of Health Careers (BAHC) in a visual arts and poetry-making session that had one student participating when they normally were disengaged from the class.

The residency focuses on promoting community awareness through the creative process and self-reflection. Self-reflection comes from exploring individual and community stories. In light of this, the Teaching Artists used the lesson to explore a themetic question with their students: What is abstract art & how can it tell a story? They led the students on an experiential journey, creating “Abstract Flow Sketches” for their main activity. These are foundational drawing warm-up exercises used to activate and assess fine motor skills, color recognition, attention to detail, and to generate composition for an abstract artwork.

The students were prompted to sketch overlapping circles, squares, etc. on paper without lifting their pen. Then, they chose their favorite flow sketch, counting shapes created by the intersecting lines, adding contrasting color and pattern to each shape created by the intersecting lines with marker and colored pencil. Students were prompted not to place the same color next to each other, and to start to associate color with emotions and moods. Through this exercise, students were introduced to the schools of abstract art, expressionism, and surrealism as well as their own creative processes.

One student in their class, Ivan, is normally absent and disengaged from school. However, Pamella and Rabih have found that he has taken a liking to art-making and is engaged when it is a CWP day. Pamella and Rabih say:

“We are proud of this work because Ivan has been absent and late to class quite regularly but when he is in class he is focused, engaged and creates beautiful work!”