Dispatches: Drawing with Children in Morocco, Part 2

Last year, Phillips Head Librarian Karen Schneider spent time in the High Atlas Mountains, Morocco, teaching drawing to school children. She recounts the experience in this two-part blog post. See Part 1 here


Students at work

Prior to my trip, my travel agent wanted to know the art project I had in mind. I was thinking that the students could draw themselves and a friend doing something together. Brigitte advised me to refrain from asking the students to depict people or animals because the people in the High Atlas Mountains practiced a conservative form of Islam that did not approve of creating images of living beings.

After introducing myself in resurrected French, my guide translated my drawing instructions into Berber. I gave the students choices: they could draw the world around them, including mountains, trees, flowers, sky, etc, or they could draw a rug and decorate it.

The students drew palm trees, rainbows, flowers, birds, insects, clouds, the sun, and a boat with a Moroccan flag. I was surprised to see that more than a quarter of the students drew people. It appears that drawing people and other living creatures is a natural part of child development and is something that cannot be easily controlled.

individual 2

Student artwork

I walked around the classroom and saw that more than half of the students drew rugs: striped rugs, rugs with zigzag designs, diamond patterns, square patterns, organic curvilinear patterns, some with writing on the outside. On the inside were stars, circles, and hearts. Most of the students drew fringe at both ends of the rug or on all sides of the rug. The students were immersed in a textile culture. They observed weavers in their small community and it was likely that they sat on rugs to relax and to eat, and they may have slept on rugs, even wrapping themselves within a rug at bedtime. I said to some of the girls, “I want the rug that you drew for my house.” Giggling ensued.

The drawing came to a natural end as most of the students finished at about the same time. They had worked for several hours and most of them made at least two or three drawings. They held their works up proudly for me to photograph. After the students finished, the teacher, my guide and I passed out small sketchbooks and a pen. The students received the supplies eagerly and I hope that they are continuing the habit of drawing.


The whole class

Dispatches: Drawing with Children in Morocco, Part 1

Last year, Phillips Head Librarian Karen Schneider spent time in the High Atlas Mountains, Morocco, teaching drawing to school children. She recounts the experience in this two-part blog post.


The view!

From Marrakesh, it was a journey of an hour and a half to the Ouirgane Valley in the High Atlas Mountains, a remote, little visited region of Morocco. We were deep in the countryside when the driver pulled up to a grove of olive, fig and pomegranate trees. There we met with a guide who asked me if I was okay with walking to our destination, the only primary school in the area, where my travel agent had made arrangements for me to teach drawing to children. As I entered the Marigha school, it took me a moment to adjust from the bright sunlight to the dark and dingy interior.

Thirty-two pairs of eyes were fixed on me with a mixture of curiosity and shock. The school didn’t have drawing paper, crayons, magic markers or art supplies in general, my travel agent alerted me in advance. I came with all of the above and the teacher, Abdellah Ait Ougadir, a relaxed, friendly man who had excellent rapport with the students, helped me to distribute art supplies as did my guide and the driver.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2.


Students at work


Students at work

A Phillips Woman on Women Artists: Lauren Griffin

In honor of Women’s History Month and The National Museum of Women in the Arts #5WomenArtists challenge, we’re highlighting some of the spectacular women on our staff and the female artists who inspire them.

Lauren Griffin, Membership Associate

Lauren Griffin photo

Lauren Griffin, Membership Associate

Do you have a favorite woman artist from The Phillips Collection, or a favorite female artist whose work has been on display at the museum?
LG: My favorite woman artist in the museum is hands-down Arlene Shechet. As a ceramicist I appreciate her experience and expertise. It takes years of practice and experimentation to make work that looks so effortless. Her glaze treatments are amazing.

Shechet installation photo_lee stalsworth

Installation view of Arlene Shechet: From Here On Now. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Who is your all-time favorite female artist? Do you remember the first time you saw her work? How does she inspire you?
LG: My favorite female artist of all time? That’s impossible to commit to, as there is such a breadth of work by women in the world, I can’t possibly pick just one! An artist who really inspires me is Tara Donovan. I had seen her work in completed form before, and had always been blown away by how she transformed everyday objects into amazing installations. While I was working at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, I was fortunate to observe the install of her work Untitled, affectionately called “the cloud sculpture.” I had only ever seen her finished work, so watching the sculpture evolve day by day, from individual Styrofoam cups and hot glue, to an undulating hive on the ceiling blew my mind. It was the first time I had the opportunity to watch an artist complete an installation on-site in a museum stetting, and when it was completed, I had a new respect for the labor and time Donovan puts into her works. She would mount a section of the sculpture, come down the scissor lift, look at it, go back up, change it, repeat. It’s easy to get discouraged as an artist when you are in the middle of making a work, you feel like you’ll never get to a result you’ll be happy with despite all your edits. Watching Donovan go through the process of revision to create an amazing finished work reminded me that all artists go through that process, even the ones in museums.

Name five women artists:
Juliana Huxtible
Andrea Bowers
Kathy Butterly
Shirin Neshat
Jenny Holzer