HALEY HOUSE BAKERY/CAFE, ROXBURY, MA–A bundle of dead branches, an old bicycle, a young woman with closed eyes, a few blocky buildings, and a couple of paper bags. Not the most exciting of subject matter, but check out the student drawing show at Haley House Bakery/Cafe in Dudley Square and you’ll discover, as Robert Henri said of the poet Walt Whitman, that an artist can «find great things in the littlest things of life.»

The drawings on view through May 23 were created by sophomores in the Design and Visual Communications program at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School between January and April 2010. Many of the graphic design sophomores enjoy cartooning, graffiti, copying drawings, and creating digital art, but few had experience with or any previous instruction in drawing from observation of three-dimensional subject matter.

Additionally, the students were skeptical that they could learn to produce good artwork with such low-tech tools as pencil, charcoal, chalk and ink. But those who stuck with the often painstaking process of working by hand and translating three-dimensional reality onto a two-dimensional field found their patience and perseverance rewarded as they saw their visual perception expand and their ability to create a sense of real volume and space increase. Says Karlisha McQuitter, 15, of Dorchester, «I learned how to do portrait drawings and use value. I thought I only could draw cartoons… I guess I was wrong!» Other students represented in the show include Angelica Alessi, Derrick Houston, Ilm R Jones, Ivandir Resende, Ismarelys Santiago, Jonathan Santiago, and Safeus «Sam» Stromberg. The drawing instruction was funded by a Creative Schools grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council with the goal of improving college readiness at Madison Park TVHS by providing a resident artist and teaching assistant affiliated with the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt). In Fall 2009 Alisa Aronson, a professional graphic designer who serves as an assistant professor of graphic design and Coordinator of the Graphic Design Certificate Program at MassArt, was hired as the resident artist. «MassArt recently added the requirement that all students applying to the college must include five drawings from observation in their application portfolio,» Aronson explains. «Pretty much any high-quality college design program–whether it’s graphic design, fashion, industrial design, architecture, or games–wants to see that an applicant uses the process of observational drawing as a way of figuring out how visual form is constructed and as a jumping off-place for developing a unique and original approach to his or her work.»

Aronson’s initial exposure to the visual communications program at Madison Park TVHS came through her involvement with Youth Design Boston, a program that provides paying summer internships for Boston public school students with art and design interest and skills. «Madison Park students would come in for their job interviews and say that their goal was to get into MassArt to study design,» Aronson explains. «I was very impressed by their understanding of graphic design as a profession and their abilities with basic design principles and software, but they were missing the fundamental drawing skills and exposure to working by hand that they need for MassArt application and to be prepared for their foundation year.» Aronson connected with Meg Young, Director of Academic Technology Services at MassA

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