I love imagery, photos, sound. Art.

This blogging thing is difficult for me.

I wish sometimes that others could just understand what I’m creating or doing, imagining, or thinking. I wish the intent and meaning of my work was clear without narrative sometimes.
liminality2small(Liminality ll, Marla McLean 2014)

I worry, if I write about it, will I then have the energy to do it?
Mermaid Rivers1(Detail from Rivers, Marla McLean 2013)

Which brings me to the dilemma of not posting since APRIL!

Where do I begin again?


By intensity?

Is there a thread to return to?

 Slide38I am deciding at this moment to start with the most current of thought and experience.
street(The streets of San Miguel, 2014, MM)
I just returned from co-teaching a course, “Art & Social Justice” in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico with the
Corcoran College of Art & Design Pittman Study Abroad Program.
skullinglesia(Mojiganga, in front of La Parochia, San Miguel de Allende,  2014, MM)


It’s my second year of traveling with Art Ed Grad students and Art Ed Director Dr. Pamela Lawton to be immersed in the rich cultural heritage of SMA, as well as facilitate an art project in Casa Hogar Santa Julia, an orphanage/girls home.

group photo(Here’s the Corcoran gang at the studio of Anado and Richard.

 First, let me say that San Miguel de Allende is one of the most beautiful places in the world and it’s a World Heritage sight.
It is an ideal location to travel with Graduate Art Ed Students to inspire, immerse, and learn.


Despite it’s vast riches (as world-over the case may be), poverty and need still exist. Similar to the US there is a great level of income inequality.

As part of the Corcoran College of Art & Design Study Abroad Course, students are given the challenge of creating art/arts programming at Casa Hogar Santa Julia-Don Bosco. (A look at life at San Miguel de Allende that is often hidden.)
SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA(Photo by Casa Hogar Santa Julia teen, Ana Maria, 2014)

“Casa Hogar Santa Julia, founded in 2005, provides housing, education, and support to girls in need. Surrounded by the competent, caring devotion of their beloved Madres, the girls of Santa Julia are transformed into confident, educated young women.

The needs of these girls stem from the precarious circumstances of their homes of origin; but at Santa Julia, these girls are being equipped to flourish in all parts of their lives—from faith to friendships, preparing for college, and personal discipline.” From the Santa Julia website

Casa Hogar Santa Julia far exceeds our American foster care system. Girls from toddlers to 19 yearl olds are nurtured (emotionally, educationally, physically, and psychologically.) That being said, this is a hard deck of cards to be dealt. The resilience and inner beauty of these girls is fierce in the face of the hardships they deal with daily.

alma and erne 

Loris Malaguzzi , visionary of the Reggio Emilia Pre Primary Schools in Italy really nailed it when he coined the phrase The 100 Languages of Children. This idea is that children or individuals express themselves in a multitude of (non-traditional) ways. When given the opportunity to express through many vehicles (poetic languages of the arts and sciences) and simultaneously being in the company of those who “listen”  through these non-typical communications, great understandings and empathy are developed.

photo share 

The Art project we presented to the teenage girls, was a photography based concept. (We spontaneously created programming for some of the younger girls, however the crux of the course/plan was working with the teens.)

It began with a slide show and talk of The History of Mexican Photography By Contemporary Photographer Pablo Ortiz Monasterio. He took the girls on a journey that ended in popular culture and connection.

 We then asked the girls, in just one session to photograph, with the caneras we brought,  the following ideas using these prompts:

1. Autoretrato (foto de ustedes)- Self portrait
2. Foto de objecto (objecto importante, que signifique algo)-Significant or important object
3. Foto de algo bello- Something you find beautiful
4. Retrato de alguien que les guste -Photo of someone you like
5. Foto de su lugar favorito aqui -Photo of a favorite place within Casa Hogar Santa Julia

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA(Photo by Casa Hogar Santa Julia teen, Katia, 2014)

In Reggio-speak these prompts are what is called a “provocation.”

Or something that provokes and generates thought, excitement, wonder, or  relationship.
A good provocation is the opposite of finite. It is an interaction or idea with legs.

 What happened next is almost impossible to describe.
The girls took off like a butterflies being released.
These teenage girls first  went about this photo shoot cautiously, but then literally began running from place to place,
high and low,

IMG_0686taking photos lowertaking photos up
open and hidden with a sense of urgency.

 taking photos chapel

Language barriers faded as small moments of intimacy, silliness, and connection were shared because of the camera.

santa julia groupAbril_Pick_1(Photo by Casa Hogar Santa Julia teen, Abril, 2014) 

I became witness to their unspoken.
SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA(Photo by Casa Hogar Santa Julia teen, Paola, 2014)

Favorite places, beauty, their personal photos/momentos, their hopes, their place of rest…

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA(Photo By Casa Hogar Santa Julia teen, Joanna, 2014) 

When we returned the next day with contact sheets, well, I wish you could have seen the moment when we handed each girl their images.

conatct sheets look 
And then we asked them to edit:
directions for contact sheets

1 image for a pillow

2 images to keep.

Pam and I would choose 1 image to be in an art exhibit.

contact sheet

 This was difficult. The girls discussed, meditated on it, were decisive, indecisive, torn. Editing is tough.

While Ben (Corcoran Graduate and our Tech in residence) was off to print. The sewing part of the project began.
Some girls experienced sewing for the first time, while others were skilled.

Beginning things can be tricky, especially when there are language barriers (none of us were bi-lingual, and our Spanish skills ranged from nothing to a 5 year old’s level!) The girls’ English skills ranged from very little to excellent. Through a mix of doing, diagrams, English, Spanish, body language, and lots of visible listening, together we became a small temporary community.

directions for pillow

The following days were filled with  communion. It is why for generations people have gathered to stitch together; in New Orleans the men gather to hand stitch elaborate Mardi Gras Indian costumes, and the women of America stitching quilts in quilting bees.
IMG_0568cutting sewing sewingWe returned the next day with the photo they had picked for their pillow on transfer paper.
IMG_0636After ironing onto the fabric, the moment of suspense and excitement where the image transfers…

The steady work of the hand in a circle of others for hours creates space for both conversation and silence in the presence of shared work.

We brought fabric markers so the girls could put text on their pillows, dreams or thoughts. Many chose to write in English or asked for translations. The words were quite astounding.
IMG_0708(The pillow reads: My Dream is to be a good sister.)

IMG_0728(The pillow reads, Always Smiling at Life, Thank you God)

IMG_0660(Her pillow speaks of loving her 3 siblings)

This is also, why, in the context of the Reggio-inspired Atelier, children work in small groups. It creates a circle of familiarity and trust, a repeated gathering where the making is the vehicle for complex relationships.

stuffing fun(The many uses of pillow stuffing)

 In the case of the girls at Santa Julia, their relationships already exist. Our small group of Corcoran students and staff were there to offer another language, another experience, an interaction, a provocation, and an opportunity to facilitate an exchange through the arts.

This year, for the first time, Pamela Lawton and I chose one image for each girl to be exhibited in Gallery 13, at La Fabrica de Aurora.

Slide1Here are some of the images we selected for this exhibition:
ErneBy Erne




P1100020By Silvia

 While we, the Corcoran engaged in this “service,” it is always ambiguous as to who in fact benefits most from these small moments.

I contend that while we gave the girls this opportunity, it was in fact, ourselves who received the greatest gifts.

 The girls, knowing we were there for just a short time took the greatest risks.

By sharing their space and place, and engaging us gringos (who by the way, spoke Spanish at the level of a 5 year old at best!) they communicated great integrity, creativity, and gratitude.


Self Portrait By Silvia

I think perhaps this is true of teaching,  universally. Yes, teachers work tirelessly and endlessly to develop, create, facilitate, and fight for the rights of children. However it is the reciprocal wisdom that the teacher receives from the student (sometimes in indirect ways that you don’t even realize in the moment) that makes life full, meaningful, and worth living.


If one can access through reflection the gifts  received, well, that is the secret and art to persevering in teaching (and life itself.)

The exhibit is up through November 2nd.

In gratitude to:

Veronique and Bob Pittman, who make the Pittman Study Abroad Program in Mexico through the Corcoran possible.

Robert Devers, Director of Corcoran Study Abroad Programs for his incredible planning, organization, and support.

Dr. Pamela Lawton, Director of Art Education at The Corcoran, Partner in crime.

Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, Photographer/collaborator. He truly helped us rethink this project while in the planning stages, and provoked us to both broaden and edit our plans. He also gave an exceptional lecture to the girls at Santa Julia.

The incredible women of Casa Hogar Santa Julia-Don Bosco:

Barbara Rueda, Madre Lidia,  Arcelia Chávez, all the Madres who greeted and smiled and made us feel welcome!

The Grad students: Amanda, Christine,  Judybeth, Lauren, who participated in this course with gusto.

The Santa Julia girls who participated in our programming with gusto.

Ben Granderson, who printed and formatted all the images, and also volunteered.

LaMar  and Mara, for volunteering.








“Art is not a part of life, it is not an addition to life, it is the essence of those pieces of us that make us fulfilled. That give us hope. That give us dreams and provide the world a view very different than what it would have been without us.” – Hasan Davi

Afrofututrism-Part 1, A New Lens By Which to See, Inspired by Cyrus Kabiru This Spring as a school, we focused on elevating Black Joy, Excellence, and Culture through living folx throughout the African diaspora. And while this is a project that we engaged in from...

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And so, How Are You Different Than Nature?

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Focusing on love.

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Because we love each other

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This Work Reminds Me of Flying

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The Children Got the Closest.

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From seeds

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All These Questions Are Love

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The Uncommon

“We react to weather in relative rather than absolute fashion,” said Laurence S. Kalkstein, a professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Miami. “The uncommon is what bothers us.”(From the Washington Post article, Shriver or shrug: On a...

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One heart at a time

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Welcome to the Bubble!

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Out into the Universe

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Happiness being taught

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“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Mr. Rogers I saw this quote after the Newtown tragedy and now once again I see it today after the Boston...

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The Intent, the Process, and the Beauty

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The greatest small gifts

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Happy eARTh day!

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Wade in the water

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“Light is more than watts and foot candles”

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I believe that theory and practice are indeed the pedals on the bicycle and you need both to move forward. (Loris Malaguzzi coined this phrase)   It is a goal to share this belief within my blog. It is important.   Today, however, I want to show  ...

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Marking time in the territory they are in

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The Honor to Witness

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Intent. Studio work has so much of this, in so many forms. There is poetic languages and memories made and found that offer new possibilities through creating,  however, behind it all is intent. For my Kindergarten students working on planning, designing and...

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The possibility of flight

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Noticing the note of each bird

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Some of the Ordinary Things

Last summer at this time, I was in Peru. This summer, I am home. What I decided to do was to name this summer “The Make Sacred the Ordinary Summer.”   So let me tell you about some of the ordinary things:   I attended a wedding in Boston and danced with my...

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"Seeing is like dreaming, and even like falling in love. It is entangled in the passions-jealousy, violence, possessiveness, and it is soaked in affect, in pleasure and displeasure and pain. Ultimately, seeing alters the thing that is seen and transforms the seer....

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What makes me smile? What is important to me?

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You Move Me

and Sasha (below)       PS Here are the links to the above references: Creativity - Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention Sparks of Genious: The 13 Thinking Tools of the World's Most Creative People Washington Post article...

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Wow, this is the first time in my blogging history that I let so much time pass between the last post. This fact creates stress because so many meaningful, powerful and surprising things have occurred since my last post. Where do I start? Chronological? Thematic? Most...

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"If aesthetics fosters sensibilities and the ability for connecting things far removed from each other, and if learning takes place through new connections between disparate elements, then aesthetics can be an important activator for learning." Vea Vecchi Since...

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As glorious and grand as the clouds

I love stories, especially stories that speak to insight and research. This year, I began the process of looking at the Anatomy of Mark Making. This is because so many people proclaim that our school seems to produce children who are prodigious at graphic...

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Waiting for the moon

Actually, I am staying up late tonight to see the full lunar eclipse on this Solstice Eve. I have until 3:00 am to wait for the moon, what a perfect opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Solstice and share images from the SWS Solstice Celebration on Friday, December...

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I was working with Lilian Katz,Phd,  in Lima , Peru last month. We were leading a RedSolare conference as well as  meeting with teachers and administrators in their schools and giving feedback and inspiration. Everyone we met with was passionate about early childhood....

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An awakening of sorts

What is a plan? “It’s when you decide whether to go to the park or do something else.” Josie “It’s something you think of and draw, and then make later.” Maya F. I initiated the Fairy House plans. It was after collecting and sorting natural materials, reading the book...

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Back to Peru

Adinath's airplane Please send "presenting love" to me during the below conference dates. Whoooo, these things make me nervous. (Fun part-I get to tour Reggio inspired Peruvian schools in Lima!) Stories to follow...

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You Change Them

The Art of Inspiration The Arcimboldo exhibit entitled Nature and Fantasy is on display at The National Gallery of Art. Last week I led a Kindergarten class (Ms. Rick's) on an exploration of his surreal paintings. For those not familiar, this is a painter from the...

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Indestructible Wonder

“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life” Rachel Carson "We have to let it...

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I am continuing thought/research from my last post, The Evolution of Mark Making. A week after that post I had my younger PreK children in the studio to create their first self portrait at SWS. This year, I am also held accountable by the school system I work for to...

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So much. So exciting. So scary.

After a small summer break from blogging, I am back. I felt a bit overwhelmed on where to start, so a list came to mind. It is always amplified, this idea of seasons and cycles for a teacher. The end of the year is filled with urgency, rituals and reflection. (That's...

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Found & Lost & Found

Dove, By Elanor A few weeks ago a dove nested in the Arbor located on our playground. The kids found it, and soon they were enthusiastically watching the dove watch them, as she sat on her eggs. I decided to take small groups of children out first thing in the morning...

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Truth found

Last Wednesday morning, I was walking my dog. It was 6:30 am, and it was garbage day in my neighborhood. As I went up the street, lo and behold, someone had thrown out an enormous mirrored disco ball. I went over to it, heart pounding and examined it. A few mirrors...

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Before and Afters many times over

I have always been fascinated by before and after images, from fashion magazines to home improvements. I find it especially captivating to view in my school and other schools. Teacher Tom and his community in Seattle created an amazing outdoor  area in a small space....

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Last but not least

I am currently in Boston, visiting my son who is a student at Berklee College of Music. Last night we were talking, and he told me about this moment he had, where he was practicing flute, it had been hours of planned playing, and then, he didn’t even realize it but...

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Objects can tell stories, if you learn to read them.

(Warrior by Fredric R.) On 2/23 and 2/25 I led each Kindergarten class, with their teachers and parent volunteers to see The Terra Cotta Warriors at the National Geographic Exhibit Hall. On the metro bus back to school, teacher Hannah Birney asked me, “What made you...

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Of “stuff”

(That's Miles, above) While work and life are intertwined, being snowed in away from the school place gave me an opportunity to work on some of my own "stuff." I will presenting at an International Conference on Young Children and Creativity in New Jersey March 3-5....

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The calm and then the storm

On Friday, February 5th, we arrived at school knowing that a huge snowstorm was coming our way. The Federal government was on leave and DC Schools were closing at noon. On that same Friday, as anticipation grew, and flakes of snow began to fall, Swatantar Mann, the...

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The parts without words

The children have finished their Dream Houses. I am in awe of each child. Utterly amazed at the brilliance evident in each piece. Here are a few  to see: but the project continues... The K classrooms' continuous common thread has been story and the narrative. Inspired...

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Small World

(detail from Khalisa's Dream House) January began with two new spaces. The Winter Garden and the Hideaway Space. The Winter Garden is a small square tactile table that is now filled with corse sand. Cat tails, shells, feathers, rocks, seed pods, small tree stumps and...

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High things

In Reggio and at SWS the role of teacher is as researcher. I have found, that when researching children, the researcher is equally the subject of the research. The Pre-K children sketched a self-portrait, and then sketched themselves transformed  into...

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In small places

What is imagination? I asked a group of 4 year olds. "When you wake from a dream and then you have to go back to bed." "It's when you dream and you're awake." "It's when you pretend." "It's what you think up." In the past two weeks I have been struck by the importance...

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The space between “learning”

It's funny how culture and ritual can define a place. In my studio, I have always had an old phonograph player. Children know, in their free time, if they choose, they can make a whirly plate. For 13 years, it has become a daily act, again and again. Sometimes...

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Looks Like Fishes and a Dance

I returned this week from an intensive week-long international study session in Reggio-Emilia. What a gift to be immersed in dialogue with such a diverse and passionate group of Atelieristas, Teachers, and Pedagogistas. (That's me, John, Alysia, Sarah and Margaret,...

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…and it looks like all my dreams

"My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be, and it looks like all my dreams." -Mr. Plumbean Imagining, Planning, and Constructing The Dream House Project SWS Studio, Kindergarten Last June, I read the Pre-k children a cherished book, The Big Orange...

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Evidence of a Memory

The art studio butterflies emerged last week. The week was filled with the combination of color, light, form, shape, & projection all inspired by the two fluttering Monarchs that filled the studio with a special aura. By Friday, it was time to set the last two...

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Not a Remembrance

9/11 is huge for the staff at School-Within-School. We are located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The staff, on that day, has memories of chaos and fear (from our 3rd floor windows, it looked like the capitol was on fire, because the smoke from the pentagon had...

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In my chiropractors office hangs a small sign that reads, The Only Constant is Change. It is never more evident then now. The school year has started. It’s a flurry of energy, excitement, and anticipation, along with to-do lists, meetings, and curriculum development....

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Margaret Boozer created an  installation  entitled Dirt Drawings, at the Katzen Art Gallery in Washington, DC. It’s an amazing piece. She dug up, lugged and painted and sculpted with raw clay directly on the gallery floor. With time, this live clay changed color,...

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Those who can do more

"The fairies are going to a party. It’s at their friends house in the woods. They are going to fly there. There’s berries in the tree. They are going to pick some to bring  to their friends house. There’s a chrysalis on the tree. A butterfly will come out. " Sofia,...

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Shaping the Soul

Yesterday, I took a walk in Brookside Gardens, in Maryland. It was a phenomenal treat for the eyes, ears,  & nose. Fountains sprayed water and kinetic sculptures danced in the wind. Flowers as dragons and tree trunks as houses. Every color flower, butterfly and...

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Everything is Connected

24gjp3derm This is page 5 from my sketchbook. I am participating in The Sketchbook Project through art-house co-op. Here's how it works, I receive a blank sketchbook with a random theme. Mine is Friends of friends of friends. I interpret and fill the book and then...

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