Bottle-cap necklaces, rubber-band bracelets, and macaroni jewelry. These are just a few of the ideas that ninth-grade students at Denver School of the Arts (DSA) suggested we consider for jewelry-making activities in the Denver Art Museum’s Jewelry Studio, offered in conjunction with the exhibition Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century.
I met with these students last spring as part of a project-based distance-learning class to present the challenge of designing unique, unexpected, and fun ideas for the Jewelry Studio. The students were well equipped to tackle this challenge, as DSA is one of few DPS schools that offers jewelry classes. With this experience behind them I knew to expect some phenomenal ideas!
Challenge & Goals
The first time I met with the students through webcam and an online meeting platform, I introduced the challenge and the museum’s goals for the studio. The students already had several experiences at the DAM, from field trips to exhibiting their art at the museum in the Colorado Scholastic Art Showcase, and each contributed to their overall understanding of what type of interactive studio space the DAM could create.
I challenged each small student group to design a studio logo, create a jewelry-making activity, and propose an idea for the studio’s inspiration wall. The students seemed to be interested in the challenge I proposed, but as a former elementary teacher, I am used to a lot more visible enthusiasm than the ninth graders showed. The next day I was thrilled when I got an e-mail from the teacher sharing how excited the students were about the project and the great potential she saw for the project as a beneficial learning experience.
For the next two weeks the students worked collaboratively to brainstorm and prototype to prepare their final designs to present to Jenna Madison, the DAM’s manager of studio and artist programs. While the students were designing back at their school I was waiting in excited anticipation to see what these budding creative minds would produce.
On the morning of the students’ presentation I worked to set up our laptop and webcam in the Drawing Studio, the space that would eventually become the Jewelry Studio. Even though the students were presenting through webcam from their classroom I wanted them to feel like they were in the space that they had been working so hard to design.
As the first group started to present I thought how this must be the most creative group in the class. Their ideas were not only unique and delightful, the group really considered every little detail. How could there be more amazing ideas than theirs? But as group after group presented, Jenna and I were blown away by each group’s ability to present creative and cohesive designs for the studio space that would inspire kids and adults alike to dive into the creative process.
A common theme among the students’ designs was the use of found objects. It is apparent when visiting the Jewelry Studio that found objects also inspired the studio design, especially the jewelry-making activities. See our Facebook page for more images of the students' work.
Jenna and I plan to meet the students at the museum soon to introduce them to the studio space. I look forward to this meeting and hope they will realize how the creative inspiration played out in their designs connects with the actual space.
I was reminded that when students are tasked with a real-world project they not only work diligently but they are motivated to impress with their creative talents. If the DAM can provide these rich learning experiences for students, we are not only supporting students’ formal learning we also are cultivating the next generation of creative talent, hopefully talent that will serve the Denver community in the future.
I look forward to connecting with more students from the Denver metro area to provide experiences that motivate them to become a part of our community’s lively and ever-changing creative industry.