Transforming the Ordinary - Ruth Asawa

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Transforming the Ordinary - Ruth Asawa

Student Work Inspired by Ruth Asawa Rooftop Alternative School Julia Morgan Program - Spring 2004

Rooftop and Julia Morgan Center for the Arts



Transforming the Ordinary FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 2004 Rooftop School, Burnett Campus Introduction Ms. Cruz’s Kindergarten Class The Garden as Inspiration Mr. Lane’s & Ms. Vaughn’s 1st Grade Class “Fortune Teller” Folding and Making Observations Ms. Beaulieu’s 2nd Grade Class Body Weaving and Sharing of Weaving Ms. Callaway’s 2nd Grade Class Reflection Weaving and What We’ve Learned About Art Ms. Worrell’s 2nd Grade Class Frozen Statues and Sharing of Wire Art Mr. Pringle’s 3rd Grade Class “Folding, Twisting, Weaving, Stacking” Dance Ms. Toupin’s 3rd Grade Class Ruth Asawa — A Biography Ms. Henry’s 5th Grade Class Mr. Mattson’s 5th Grade Class Asawa’s Art as Inspiration — Poetry and Art

Dedication Ceremony Acknowledgements Spring 2004 Work of Art: Ruth Asawa’s Grand Hyatt Fountain at Union Square, Origami Fountains at Japantown and Tied-Wire Sculpture at the Oakland Museum Julia Morgan Teaching Artists: Dave Maier & Rica Anderson

“I believe in the lasting joy that making art can bring to all of us.” — R U T H A S AW A —

A painting is merely paint on a surface. Sculpture is only materials assembled in space. Art merely exists until the viewer chooses to take the time to engage with it, to look closely, to find their own connections to another person’s idea. This Spring of 2004 the Julia Morgan program has focused on the art of Ruth Asawa, sculptor and arts advocate. Our students have been asked, “How does Ruth Asawa transform the ordinary in her public works at Union Square, Japantown and the Oakland Museum?” Classes have visited Japantown and Union Square, receiving the hospitality of the communities served by Ruth’s art. Our children have come to feel a deep connection to the art that has been the focus of their study, and they have learned that they too have the ability to positively effect their surroundings. Our young artists have been hard at work (and play) with paper, wire, and baker’s dough, creating their own works, which they will gift to the Rooftop community, in tribute to Ruth Asawa and her family. They have come to be inspired by Ruth’s art and life. Our goal with the student study of Ruth Asawa has been to encourage our students to be open to the possibilities of art. It is all too easy to say, “I don’t like it” or “I like it.” We want to encourage students to notice more and to understand that art has the ability to bring you to places, connect you to others, and to bring you to greater selfunderstanding. It was a common occurrance for adults on the field trips to comment, “I’ve walked by this place a million times and I’ve never ever noticed this. I had no idea!” As parents, we can encourage our children to be aware and open to the world around them. Riches are there for all who choose to stop, look and listen. I recently overheard a conversation between two kindergarten students, the morning after a family arts workshop focusing on Ruth. One girl held a small lump of baker’s clay and expressed her enthusiasm for the newly introduced medium. "It’s baker’s dough! See this! I’m the only one in the world who can make this flower!” With 4 cups flour, 1 cup salt, and 1-1/2 cups water, this student was transformed. And so it is that decades later, Ruth Asawa continues to work her magic at Rooftop. — Andi Wong, Rooftop Art Coordinator



RUTH ASAWA — “Transforming the Ordinary”

Student art dedicated to Ruth Asawa and the Asawa-Lanier family: Kindergarten Family Crest Mosaic — Tiles created by Kindergarten class of 2004, to be installed near the play structure under Room 5’s windows. Nature Tile Mosaic — Tiles created by Mr. Pringle’s 3rd grade class to be installed under windows near teacher parking lot entrance. Butterflies — Water bottles transformed! — Kindergarten and 1st grade classes, Ms. Beaulieau’s 2nd grade class, installed throughout the building. “What I’ve Learned at Rooftop” Mosaic — Ms. Worrell’s 2nd grade class, to be installed at the bottom of the stairwell near book room door. Garden Entrance — Ms. Cruz’s Kindergarten class Weavings — Ms. Beaulieu and Ms. Callaway’s 2nd grade classes Tie-Dyed Tibetan flags — Ms. Whitcomb’s 4th grade class, to be installed at top of driveway and near main building entrance from playground. Solar-dyed Mandalas — Ms. Henry & Mr. Mattson’s 5th grade classes, to be installed at the Mayeda Campus “San Francisco” — Mr. Mattson’s 5th grade class pen-and-ink with watercolor drawings, to be installed at the Mayeda Campus. “My Favorite Things Fountain” — Ceramic fountain created by Ms. Henry’s 5th grade class, to be installed at the Mayeda Campus. “For Aiko Cuneo” display case dedication plaque — Created by the Rooftop staff, parents and children during Family Art Night. Burnett Classroom Baker’s Dough Art — Dough art of all kinds, including Native American Indian tribes, Rancho/Missions, Rooftop Spirit, Classroom number signs. Mayeda/8th Grade Baker’s Dough Art — The 8th grade is creating at baker’s dough project to be installed at the Mayeda Campus. Family Baker’s Dough Murals — Created by staff, parents and children of Rooftop working collaboratively at the Kindergarten Art Fair and Family Art Night, to be installed over the bulletin board near downstairs entrance to playground. Mayeda/8th Grade Baker’s Dough Art — 8th grade baker’s dough project to be installed at the Mayeda Campus. “RUTH ASAWA: Transforming the Ordinary” — A publication of the Asawa-inspired student work created by Rooftop students will be gifted to the libraries at both campuses. “Transforming the Ordinary“ is made possible by a generous grant from the Reach A Star Foundation. KinderstArt is sponsored by a First Five Parent Action Grant from the San Francisco Children’s and Families Commission. Ruth Asawa and teaching artists Dave Maier and Rica Anderson at Rooftop’s Julia Morgan Spring 2004 Culminating Event.

RUTH ASAWA — “Transforming the Ordinary”


Butterflies are Free! The butterfly, a real life example of transformation in nature, has become our symbol for “Transforming the Ordinary.” Inspired by Ruth’s use of commonly found materials that are free to a school in search of art materials, these beautiful butterflies are created from plastic water bottles. Ruth used the milk carton, an item no longer readily found in schools, to make geometric sculptures with kids. Our students were encouraged to notice the art in the classrooms and hallways and to note how they transformed their otherwise plain classroom. They then made these butterflies to brighten up the halls, after looking at pictures of butterfly wings, examples of patterning and symmetry in nature.

Family Crests Japanese family crests called “mon,” created for samarai, but now used to represent all families are designed from images from nature. The First Five Program of the San Francisco Childrens and Families Commission, through a generous grant to our Art Parent Program, has given our kindergarten students the opportunity to created their own family crests. Working with cardboard to create the symbols used for their crests, the students were inspired by our Rooftop Garden. The cardboard stamps were pressed into clay, details were added, and the tiles were glazed by our artists. Working with Parent Art Coordinator Shauna Goodkin, every kindergartener has created a family crest that is being incorporated into a mural that will decorate the walls under the windows near the play structure in the yard.

4 cups Flour, 1 cup Salt and 1-1/2 cups Water! Art from baker’s clay was first explored by Ruth Asawa at Alvarado School and used experimentally on the Grand Hyatt Fountain in Union Square. “Since we have no real folk art or craft tradition any more in this country, this kind of activity has to be recreated to bring families and communities together. No one feels he has to be an artist to work with dough with kitchen untensils. we we started a community art program with parents, teachers and children working together in school it was natural to use dough sculpture on large panels which everyone could work on. When the fountain came along I thought it was a great opportunity to show how group skills could be used to make something that people usually think of as high art— one product from one person’s mind and hands...” These beautiful panels were created by Rooftop families during Family Art Night. They will decorate the bulletin board downstairs near the entrance to the main building from the playground.



RUTH ASAWA — “Transforming the Ordinary”

Aiko Cuneo Aiko Cuneo, Ruth’s daughter, is a talented artist in her own right and was Rooftop’s first parent Art Coordinator. Continuing the work that her mother started with the Alvarado Arts Workshop, Aiko helped Rooftop students to create the beautiful plexiglas murals and many of the baker’s dough murals that can be found throughout the halls of Rooftop’s Burnett Campus. Upon her arrival at Rooftop, our Principal Jane Bieringer noticed the absence of a plaque dedicating this hallway display case to Aiko. (Mrs. Bieringer is also a former Rooftop parent and PTA President!) We decided that a new plaque should be made to honor the outstanding work that Aiko did here at Rooftop. Today, we strive to uphold the standards and traditions of excellence in art education set by Aiko at Rooftop.

In the 1980’s, Rooftop was blessed with an extraordinary parent who had a rich vision of art education for all children. From the minute her two children stepped into Kindergarten, Aiko Cuneo worked hard to bring art into the classroom and into the curriculum. Her dedication, hard work, generosity, and spirit was legendary. Aiko strongly believed that art is life, and is in everything. Her gentle manner and pursuance of excellence soon won recruits everywhere on the importance of art in our school. From her vision, Aiko built a parent volunteer base of hundreds of art parents who, in conjunction with teachers and administration, taught art lessons into the classroom weekly. Aiko also led art workshops to help educate parents on art integration and methodology. Although children grow and families move on to other schools, Aiko’s legacy continues to this day at Rooftop. Aiko, like her mother, Ruth Asawa, is a great example and model of living out the dream of integrating art into classrooms everywhere for all children. — Cyndy Sugawara, Art Instructor

Baker’s dough colorful, messy pound, squish, stir it felt like mush goo — Joseph Chavez-West

RUTH ASAWA — “Transforming the Ordinary”


Mandala “An artist is not special. An artist is an ordinary person who can take ordinary things and make them special. An artist looks at a juice bottle, an egg carton or a newspaper and sees something valuable in them.” — Ruth Asawa The 5th grade students were presented with this quote. It was noted that the statement was truly reflective of Asawa’s life’s work, both her artistic endeavors and her advocacy of the arts for all children. Our students were asked to create their own “statement,” a written sentence that would reflect something that they believed to be true. The mandalas, Sanskrit for “circle, community, and connection”, were created from hotel napkins that were to be discarded. Students explored kirigami, Japanese papercutting, to create masks for solar dying the fabric, also using plants from the Burnett Garden. These colorful statements of truth and beauty will be used to decorate the Mayeda Campus.

”My Favorite Things“ Fountain Ms. Henry’s 5th Grade Class created this whimsical fountain featuring ceramic water catchers of all shapes and sizes. The bowl on the top of the fountain was made by Ms. Henry. This fountain will be installed at the Mayeda Campus.



RUTH ASAWA — “Transforming the Ordinary”

Tie-Dyed Tibetan flags The Japanese art of “shibori,” is a form of tie-dying that involves the folding, wrapping, twisting and pleating of fabric with string before dying. When the fabric is untied after dying, wonderfully unique colors and patterns are revealed. Ms. Whitcomb’s 4th grade class created these colorful banners which will be installed at top of driveway and near main building entrance from playground.

Nature Tile Mosaic These tiles created by Mr. Pringle’s 3rd grade class were inspired by the natural habitats surrounding Rooftop and our beautiful garden. The finished mosaic will be on display at the Youth Arts Festival before being installed under the windows near teacher parking lot entrance.

“What I’ve Learned at Rooftop” Mosaic Ms. Worrell’s 2nd grade class, created the tiles and pieces that make up this Asawa-inspired mosaic. Working with art parent Jill Stern, the dtudents made a list of things that they had learned at Rooftop. Asawa believes in “completing the circle,” learning something, applying it and passing that knowledge on. As Ruth Asawa states, and Rooftop’s dedicated art parents will agree, we learn much from working with our children. This art is to be installed at the bottom of the stairwell near book room door.

RUTH ASAWA — “Transforming the Ordinary”


Ruth Asawa Biography Project by Ms. Toupin’s 3rd grade class

“There is no separation between studying, performing the daily chores of living, and creating one’s own work.” — RUTH ASAWA Ruth Asawa is a famous artist and sculptor. Ruth’s father came from Japan because they were having war. She was born in Southern California, April 1926. Her parents were Japanese Americans who worked the sugar beets and worked 20 hours a day. World War II started and the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor & the president had all the Japanese people in the west coast taken to internment camps. Her family got separated and became internees in various camps in Arkansas & California in 1942. First they were sent to Santa Anita & then they were sent to a camp called Rohwer Relocation Center in Arkansas. Her father was taken to prison in New Mexico. The internment camp was like a jail and stressful because there wasn‚t much to do and they were forced to stay there. Being at the internment camp played a major part on her art. Everyday in the internment camp she spent 5 hrs. a day learning how to draw from a Walt Disney studio artist, who was also interned there. She got to leave the camp after 2 years & then went to Milwaukee State Teacher‚s college & she studied there for 3 years. When she finished college, she didn’t get a job to teach because they refused to hire anyone Japanese because we were still at war with Japan. Ruth gave up on the idea of teaching & went to the famous Black Mountain College in North Carolina where “art was a way of living.” She took memories from the internment camp and put them into her art. She studied art & started to crochet wire. The sculptures looked like circles inside circles that look like spirals. At the college, she met Albert Lanier, who was an architect, and married him. They moved to San Francisco and had 6 children & 10 grandchildren. She designed 4 water fountains in San Francisco. At Japantown, she made 2 fountains designed from folding paper. At the Hyatt Hotel, she designed the fountain using baker’s dough and scenes of San Francisco made by kids and adults from the community. She made art more interesting for schools by changing the way art was taught in schools. She started the art program at Alvarado School. She had kids creating murals using paint, mosaic tiles, and bread dough. A friend gave her a tree that inspired her to design wire sculptures. One of her sculptures is in the Oakland Museum and looks like a star. She believed that art should be everywhere. She believed that we should be doing something every minute that we’re on earth and we should be growing like seeds.



RUTH ASAWA — “Transforming the Ordinary”

San Francisco Inspired by Asawa’s Grand Hyatt Fountain at Union Square, featuring the landmarks and neighborhoods of the City rendered in baker’s dough, these pen and ink with watercolor paintings by Mr. Mattson’s 5th grade class depict the famous and not-so-famous sights of San Francisco.

RUTH ASAWA — “Transforming the Ordinary”


Gail Newman of “California Poets in the Schools” worked with Ms. Henry and Mr. Mattson’s fifth grade students to compose the following poems. The first series of poems, written by Ms. Henry’s 5th grade class focuses on the simple actions of “folding, weaving, twisting and stacking.” These actions were explored in a variety of activities in pre-engagement sessions with the Julia Morgan visiting artist Dave Maier. Students explored applying these actions to transform materials when creating their art, and even physically reproduced the actions with their bodies. After a few sessions, the students came to realize that these actions can be found everywhere! By prompting, “Where do you see folding, weaving, twisting and stacking?,” the students are encouraged to look closer, and they are given a way to discuss the art that they see. TWIST


Noodles in a boiling pot String, tied in a knot The twist of whistling willow Stars twist to brighten up the sky. Twisted like a soda when you shake it. A mother bird’s nest, twigs twisted together to make a shelter. The world twisting in a radical wind. Vines, ropes, roller coaster. The birds like wind rising and twisting Cars twist around the city licorice, dizziness, and cake batter. Twisting like a monkey’s tail. Plastic bags and a fan. Twisting is like birds flying in circles Twisted tree branches reach out To touch the gleam of hope Pollution, twisted wars in foreign countries, murders, bombings. How can we live in this twisted world?

Salami and cheese on my sandwich. Clothes on the floor, mom saying clan your room. Happiness stacks up when I play with my dog!! Love and happiness and anger and madness, tight and dark. Stress stacks up in me like a pyramid. Life is like a novel with things happening stacked up on each other. CDs stacked in compartments. Friends calling, three hundred and sixty five days, non-stop stack. Planets and stars stacking on gravity like magnets on electric polarities

WEAVE My fingers weave into each other. My heart weaves with art like everybody. Weaving in my heart when I’m nervous. Art weaves with my heart, like family weaves together with me. The shouting lightning crossing Gossiping grasses weave together when I step on them Shouting weaving clouds are like Whales in the ocean weaving through seaweed. Troubles weaving in your mind Twisted fate weaving truth. Good and bad, the world weaves together through kindness and hate, generosity and spite. 9


FOLD The clouds folding quietly and slowly like soaring doves. Fold a piece of darkness and throw it away. Fold self-confidence into everybody’s soul. Fold cards in poker. Folding origami. Layers of topping folded on ice cream. Fold feelings like a sad hound dog. My life stacked away like an empty box then folded into a crate on my way to freedom. Unfold the sun’s rays to make light for everyone. Folding is always in the midst.

— Ms. Henry’s Class

RUTH ASAWA — “Transforming the Ordinary”



The clouds folding away quietly from the sun. The flowers extending and folding while they grow. The water flowing and folding in the simmering light. The wind folding quietly and slowly like a soaring dove. The rose folding as flexible as ice cream melting in the strong sun.

Stacking people in a circus act Buildings stacking like there is no end to the sky Sprinkles stacking on ice cream Planets and stars stacking on gravity like magnets on electric polarities Muscles stacking on Arnold Schwartzenegger’s arms Stacking is everywhere

— Viana Larkin

TWIST My twisted mind Water twisting in my stomach Cheetos twisting in my mouth Friends twisted in my mind Thinking of hard and twisting homework I have twisted fun playing my Gameboy Advance. I feel as twisted as a monkey that went crazy. I feel like the world twisting in a radical wind.

— Edwin Yan

WEAVING A spider web delicate like a feather The slithering branches on a tree The whispering clouds Weaving like the good and the bad of life — Ruby Wong

WEAVE — Ben Liang

TWIST (to a beat louder, faster) Licorice, dizziness, and cake batter too! Pineapples, mango and coconut juice. They all twist together (pause) What about you? Licorice, dizziness and cake batter too. — Maxwilliam Chao

Clouds weaving through into the bright blue sky. Fingers weaving my beautiful hair with braids. The breath taking rainbow weaves into many varieties of colors. My mind is weaving through so many books and feelings. The clocks weave through time, seasons, & life. Teachers weave into grades, pages, and education. My heart weaves with art like everybody to gravity like magnet to lockers like art weaves with my heart like family weaves together with me. — Win-Mon Kyi

STACK A stack of paper on a desk Stacking bricks towering up high in the air Stress stacks up in me like a pyramid. — Nicolas Bloise

RUTH ASAWA — “Transforming the Ordinary”


The following poems, written by Mr. Mattson’s 5th grade class, were inspired by Asawa’s artwork — the Grand Hyatt Fountain, the Origami Fountains at Japantown and the tied-wire sculpture at the Oakland Museum

Grand Hyatt Fountain at Union Square twisting dragon leaps, roars, scattering people on all fours, on Ruth Asawa’s sculpture. people in robes doing karate, the water rises up, like steam on a latte, on Ruth Asawa’s sculpture. the shining sun smiles, on 3-D pictures, not at all vile, on Ruth Asawa’s sculpture. buses and cars drive, reaching towers seem alive, on Ruth Asawa’s sculpture. — Gabriela Pelsinger

The surface has layers, makes your mind buzz with questions. The sculpture, like its own region, jogs my memory of San Francisco. Silent, sparkling, it captures the heart, tells a story of art, every inch, the cracks, the clatter. All the elements go together like a fairytale. Everything is perfect… — Tanya Evanchak

The print of art, blade of lightning sparkling on the blossom planet. The flow of coldness, the spring of light erupting. The force of a blade-like figure scattering through the darkness like a busy buzzing bee, flying through the night sky like the force of a secret. Ruth Asawa’s art is like all that. — Byron Lee 11


RUTH ASAWA — “Transforming the Ordinary”

This fountain, dedicated by Ruth to the children of San Francisco, is a banquet the senses for those who stop and take a moment to look closely. The fountain was a “grand” experiment that involved casting the fountain in bronze from “baker’s clay,” an inexpensive dough first used by Ruth at Alvarado School. No simple task, the project involved many hands and about 1,400 pounds of flour and salt! The magic of art The hands of a community The pounding, squishing, and the teamwork. Kids touching the metal like hands touching the cold water of the ocean. Sitting on the steps with ears wide open, hearing the engines of cars and buses, high heels clattering on the ground. Happiness, friendship, joy. The City’s fountain will always be in the hands of San Francisco. — Megan Wong

BASIC BAKER’S CLAY RECIPE 4 cups flour 1 cup salt 1 1/2 cups water (more if necessary) •••• Mix five times this amount for a class of 25-30 students. Mix flour and salt well. Add water and knead until smooth, so that the dough is pliable but not sticky. (Mix shortly before use since the dough does not store well.) For coloring, add food coloring to the water or tempera powder to the flour and salt mixture.) After sculpting, bake the finished items in a slow ove: 250 to 300 degrees for color, 300 to 350 degrees for uncolored dough, for one hour or more (depending on thickness of the pieces) until hard.

RUTH ASAWA — “Transforming the Ordinary”


Origami Fountains at Japantown The folding is like a silent story, shy and secret. The ocean comes out of the blossoming flower. The serenity of the cold waters dropping down. It remains still, but full of life. — Kristen Quan

It’s like a woman in an outside mall saying, “I wonder where I should go.” With a brown ruffle dress and a ruffle hat looking spiffy. — Josh Dillard

This art shows the true meaning of San Francisco, unity of all people Ruth Asawa reminds us of our unity like fire in a tornado, they don’t go together but they are one like us — Yves-Olivier Mandereau



RUTH ASAWA — “Transforming the Ordinary”

Tied-Wire Sculpture at the Oakland Museum RUTH ASAWA Beautiful as the swirl of dreams like whispers of music. Beautiful as the sparkling of stars like darkness of night. Beautiful as the spring of blossoms like summer of wonder. Beautiful as the heat of hearts like oceans of waves. Beautiful as the whirling of wind like giving of life. Beautiful as the leaves of fall like silent secrets. Beautiful as the bubble of dreams like spaces of fire. — Angela Huynh

The volcano of dreams explodes like a Wave in the ocean Darkness colliding with the beauty Of the art A chain of memories in each piece of art The art is as calm as a petal gliding across a prairie The art is like mist dancing on a lake a web of dreams in a painting in a gallery lightning erupting in the earth like the excitement in the art

Ruth Asawa’s art is like lava, it slowly drifts down and into your heart. It explodes into your mind like a bean sprout. It is clear as crystal yet foggy and blocked. Each wire is like a single cell in the body of art. Yet still some people look at it like any other blade of grass on a hill. Like ash and ice, dust and snow, each piece of work is similar, yet totally different. When I look at her art I feel solid and hollow at the same time. Unlike some people, she doesn’t hunt for fame. — Zachary Ruylemeyer

— Kevin Hu

RUTH ASAWA — “Transforming the Ordinary”