This year’s Artists-in-Residence Week took inspiration from Aaron Becker’s infamous children’s book "Journey". It was a phenomenal success and an incredible opportunity for NAISNY students to work alongside authentic New York artists. During the week, they developed their creativity through Art, Music, Dance and Drama projects, each taking inspiration from the book.
About the book, Journey
Journey is a beautifully illustrated children's wordless picture book, acclaimed a "masterwork" by the New York Times. Through pictures alone, the book tells the story of a lonely girl who finds a red crayon and uses it to escape from a mundane world into a magical wonderland.
The Immersive showcase during AIR Week
Each class or form in our school took on the task to recreate the scenes and concepts within the book. The parents that attended our showcase at the end of the week were taken on an immersive journey and our students used Dance, Sculpture, Music, Poetry, Art and Choreography to create an unforgettable showcase for our school community. Every space within our school was transformed into a magical scene, inspired by the book. The idea behind the showcase was that the audience had the same magical experience as the girl in the story. The performance began in the Hub with low lighting and a song performed by Years 3-9 (“Wanderlust” by Paul McCartney), which summed up feelings of a wistful voyage and all the adventures to come.
The Hub (our public space in school) was decorated atmospherically to represent the beginning of the story. It appeared dull and drab in the same way that the protagonist in the story’s life is portrayed. Year 1 worked with Artist-in-Residence (AIR) Melissa Riker relay their wildest dreams to the audience. They made dream catchers and wrote sentences about their dream adventures which were hung from the ceiling. The children worked with our drama teacher, Miss McIntrye to learn movement which would convey the boredom of the girl.
In the story, the girl then finds a red crayon and uses it to draw a door, through which she enters into a magical and adventure-filled land. The Hub in our school had a similar brightly-colored red door through which our audience progressed to the next part of the showcase. In the stairwell, the walls were decorated with paper birds, insects and lights, imagined and folded by Year 8, and magical music by Prokofiev was played live on piano by Year 5 student Joelle Wee in the stairwell. In the background, birds could be heard tweeting, leading the audience to the magic forest.
The next phase of the magical journey was ‘Enchanted Forest’ on the third floor, designed and decorated by Intrepid Form. This section represented the first part of the girl’s journey into the magical world.
Intrepid form enjoyed recreating the forest scene from the Journey story. Their aim was to create a relaxing and wondrous forest scene. They worked hard to create the forest installation, painting trees, making vines and leaves. In their sessions with Art teacher Miss Fig and Mr Rearden, they enjoyed creating their own lanterns, allowing them to express their personalities as well as keeping to a theme. Throughout the week, they worked with Artist in Residence Frank Bosco and Performing Arts Lead Mrs Draper, to create a beautiful piece of music to reflect the feelings they wanted to convey in the forest. The students selected the instruments (marimbas, glockenspiels, violin) and worked collaboratively to build up the patterns and textures of the piece. The result was very impressive and a delight to hear. They performed this music live during the showcase and succeeded in creating a wonderfully magical atmosphere in the forest.
The next phase of the journey was ‘Castle’ on the fourth floor, installed and performed by Liberty Form. This represented the section of the story where the girl reaches a castle by river on a boat which she has drawn.
Liberty Form worked in Art with Miss Fig to create an ‘Imaginary Cities’ mural. The students learned how to use texture and shape to create a building and city structure. They created watercolor backgrounds and drew cities and structures on top. They then created 3D structures to add to the backgrounds.
In this space, Liberty form worked with our Artist-in-Residence Reba Browne and our Drama Lead, Miss McIntyre, who helped them achieve their vision to convey the journey into the red boat and into the castle. They created a large red boat in which the audience had to step into and ‘sail’. Within the castle walls, they performed a highly polished musical theatre piece called ‘Walk the Plank’, delighting the audience as they walked through the space.
Next, the audience progressed to the fifth floor, where the theme was ‘Clouds’. Performances were given by Years 2, 3&4 and 8&9. In this part of the story, the girl draws a red hot air balloon and soars up to the sky where she meets a caged purple bird, being kept by soldiers on strange, intimidating vessels in the sky. Upon managing to free the bird, the girl herself is caged and she drops her magic crayon in her struggle to avoid capture.
Throughout the week Year 2 collaborated to create a giant red hot air balloon with papier-mâché as well as learning to fold paper origami birds to make into mobiles, which were hung in the sky. The class worked alongside our AIR Katie Down to compose an original song they titled “Magic, Wonder, Discovery” - exploring the central themes of the book. They also composed an instrumental song introduction where they used a range of instruments and body percussion to set the tone for their performance. They performed confidently in the corridor, which was transformed by cloud installations, soft lighting, balloons and birds.
Years 3&4 worked with AIR Melissa Riker, artistic director and choreographer, to represent the scenes of conflict in the story where the girl fights to free the purple bird and ends up caged herself. Their immersive dance (in the 5th floor Dance Studio) was an extraordinary experience for the audience, who stood amongst them and became trapped and caged themselves by the dance moves! Years 3 & 4 also constructed beautiful and meaningful ‘story balloons’ throughout the week based on and inspired by the book. To achieve this, Year 3 used papier-mâché and Year 4 origami. Both classes also used a section in the book to create working models of a winch and boat. All of these items were displayed on the 5th floor and used to house candles and create the magical atmosphere.
To represent the purple bird in the story, Empire Form were guided by AIR Eric Helvie to create a giant bird sculpture, housed and displayed in Eric’s studio on the 5th floor. Empire form also created poems based on concepts such as freedom and flight, which were part of the installation. The students began the week by discussing the symbolism and feelings associated with being caged and trapped versus feelings of freedom. They then used these concepts to create poems that marked a shift between their experiences of being trapped to overcoming their obstacles and freeing themselves of their worries. The students performed their spoken-word poetry in the studio, filled with the bird sculpture, creating a striking and imposing atmosphere.
On the Early Years floor, the theme was ‘Night Sky’ and this represented the last part of the girl’s magical journey. Upon being caged and losing her red crayon, the bird returns the crayon to the girl and she draws a flying carpet so that she can escape. In the following scenes, the girl flies through the night sky on the magic carpet. Performances were given by the 2s, Nursery and Reception. Nursery and Reception performed a night dance with sound-effects and flying birds. They also sang a beautiful rendition of ‘A Whole New World’ from Aladdin. The 2s, helped by AIR Frank Bosco and Mrs Draper, performed a short recital of ‘night sounds’ using musical instruments. They also sang Twinkle Twinkle with confidence and smiles. Early Years also had the opportunity to work alongside our AIR Reba Browne throughout the week, who demonstrated movement to convey the feeling of flying on a magic carpet.
Supported by Miss Fig, the 2s painted gold and silver stars and added glitter to them. They also painted clouds by mixing and swirling paint and glued different textures on others to create puffy clouds. Nursery and Reception class worked together to paint a fantastic large-scale mural for the hallway, and a night-sky mural which was displayed and lit up in the playroom.
At the end of the story, the girl is led by the bird to a purple door and ends up back in her old life. Upon her return, she makes a new friend, who has a purple crayon (creator of the purple bird). The girl is home again, but with a new perspective and a new friend.
On Thursday evening’s showcase, back in the Hub (city scenery), students in Years 3-9 performed ‘Orinoco Flow’ by Enya, the lyrics ‘Sail away, sail away, sail away’ summing up the amazing journey, followed by a compelling piece of shadow puppetry drama performed by some of our Upper School students to close the showcase.
On Friday afternoon’s showcase, the final scene was performed by two Year 1 students who captivated the audience with their fantastic portrayal of the girl and boy running off together, basking in their new found friendship.
We would like to thank Aaron Becker, the author of the book, for providing us with a signed print and for his encouragement throughout our AIR week 2019/20. It was a fantastic success!