Artists and young people from La Puente, Whittier, and Riverside in Southern California joined forces to create an exciting arts activity at a community center in La Puente. The artists wanted to create an activity for the eighteen youngsters, who ranged in age from seven to seventeen, that combined drawing and listening to a piece of jazz by jazz pianist Joey Alexander. They wanted to give the kids an opportunity to explore the visual arts in response to music.
Dennis McGonagle, who is an art teacher, began the event by explaining how the students could access the right side of their brains by quietly listening to music while freely drawing abstract patterns, colors and images.
When the recording of Alexander’s piece, “Ma Blues” began, some of the students started drawing lines and shapes while others hesitated, as if overwhelmed by the blank page in front of them. This is a common occurrence nowadays because many students are not given the opportunity to create art in the public schools. Very quickly, however, a collective energy took over and all of the young artists were freely drawing to the music.
When the piece ended, it was replayed again and again as the youthful artists continued to draw to Alexander’s music. In the end, everyone was amazed at the beauty and variety of the artwork created by the young people. The music and art transported them into a creative place.
The comments submitted by the youthful artists include the following:
“Oh, it was really fun and I loved using all of the colors. I mean that with every note there was a different emotion, you know. It was awesome! ” (Lola Cannon)
“The music, just like it had many different images and colors.” (Emma Sieh)
“I’m a big jazz fan myself. I love art, music, and the feeling of the surrounding area that you would think of jazz, dark, but yet bright lights. Very…very mysterious in a way.” (Alberto Hernandez)
“I just decided to draw whatever would look weird at random. I drew at the same time the music made the notes.” (Liam McGonagle)
“When I hear certain kinds of music like this one specifically, I think of like wavy lines and also straight lines like for when the beats are relaxed. And then, when the music starts to pick up I just imagine like explosions and like bouncing and exciting things happening. It was really cool.” (Romelo Thornton)
“When I was drawing, I was thinking like of the Twenties, kind of. And oh, like the squiggly lines and like, how the music was and everything.” (Miyoko Thornton)
“I just went with the flow of my body, like how my body wanted to show abstractness and this is like raindrops of water, like a midnight alley, that’s what I am getting. Like lanterns, like a walkway to New York.” (Taishi Umezaki)
Meanwhile, John Garside, who runs the television station for the City of Whittier and has made numerous documentary films about the history of Southern California, was filming the activity. Mr. Garside was able to capture the students’ reaction in interviews, which he incorporated into the film.
The success of this activity was manifested in the joy felt by all of the people involved.
ICAP expresses our appreciation to Dennis McGonagle for the article.