Highlighting Let Art Freedom Ring Mentors: Rubens Ghenov

With the unofficial end of summer less than two weeks away, we wanted to offer you the next artist-mentor profile for Let Art Freedom Ring ©. This time we have Rubens Ghenov, a local artist best-known for this multimedia art installations, who teamed up with students at McCloskey Elementary to create their bell, which they called, “The Framework of Liberty.”

We sat down with Ghenov to discuss how he and his students developed their abstract representation of the Liberty Bell and what he learned in the process about arts-based education.

How did you get involved with the project? Ben Volta, one of my friends, worked on another bell and encouraged me to get involved.

You were working with the youngest students out of any artist mentor. What challenges did this pose? I knew I needed to be more hands, so there was a lot of back and forth. I asked a lot of questions to the kids, had them draw out ideas concerning liberty and how they would envision a new Liberty Bell that would be specific to the way they see freedom. I took their ideas and made a sketch from it. I then brought it to class and then had them make their own little models out of balsa wood sticks.

What happened next in the process? The students were then asked to bring images from home that they connoted with freedom and they “inscribed” them with carbon paper on 1 x 2 inch pieces of wood they previously primed. I took their models and, in fusing them with my sketches, assembled the structure.

What’s in the middle of the bell? A clapper which the students made and I assembled for them toward the end of the process. [A clapper, for those unfamiliar, is the striking instrument of the bell that generates the noise.]

What moment stands out most for you in the process? At the end, we made a sound piece together where the student spoke, in unison, the names that they associated with freedom. It was meant to mimic the sound of a bell.

Finally, what do you think is most valuable about arts-based educational models for children? Children are important, period. Art is one of the first languages we, as humans,  learn to communicate with. To keep this thread ongoing is beyond an important aspect in these children’s lives. At the same time, to make art TODAY with kids also means to demonstrate its importance in keeping this type of communication viable to people. School at times can be a daunting activity and completely detached from life; art helps to bridge that gap.

Stay tuned for upcoming interviews and other projects PAEP is working on. In the meantime, don’t forget to vote for your favorite bell. There are only two weeks left to Let Art Freedom Ring ©!

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