Local artist teaches the craft of cultural masks
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 23:09
"It’s about the process more so than the product,” art teacher Ayanna Moore-Avinger says to her class.
This phrase rang true for Moore-Avinger when she discovered her artistic interest in masks, after taking an art class at her local community center. The group made masks out of clay which looked great but disappointed her when they fell apart, she says.
“After that I just started studying masks everywhere around the world,” Moore-Avinger says. “And they just intrigued me with their different cultural expressions and the way they way they are used.”
Moore Avinger spent 11 years teaching art in Philadelphia but has lived in Delaware for about three years, where she has recently returned to the front of an art class.
Beginning in October, Moore-Avinger will teach in Newark for the first time. “Masks From Around the World” is the name of the class, held at the Newark Arts Alliance for students ages seven to nine.
This past summer, Moore-Avinger taught two summer camp classes at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, “Makin’ it Macro” and “Edible Art.”
For her masks class at the Newark Arts Alliance, Moore-Avinger will use her teaching skills to assist students in making up to three different types of masks.
She says she plans on using mixed-media, her favorite medium to work with, which will allow students to create masks using clay, paper and papier-mâché , as well as shapes and colors.
Courtney Von Stein, a graduate art conservation student, says face masks have cultural, political or spiritual significance and are a great way for people to learn about a wide variety of art.
“Ayanna’s project sounds incredible, as it will encourage critical and creative thinking about the significance of the mask as both a practical object and as an art form,” says Von Stein . “It will also allow kids to explore cultural and generational differences in an incredibly fun way. What kid wouldn’t want to design and decorate their own mask?”
Moore-Avinger is not the only artist interested in the culture of masks. Their use throughout the world to express many different types of civilizations is constantly being studied by art conservationists, historians and anthropologists.
“Masks From Around the World” will expose children to different kinds of cultures and traditions, allowing them to express their own individuality as well. Her main goal of the course is to expose students to the process of creating art and allowing them to be individuals, she says.
“I’m really hoping, and really anticipating, that we will have fun with this, and of course get a lot out of the class as well,” says Moore-Avinger.
The artist has been interested in her craft since high school but did not study fine arts in college. She instead pursued fashion and textile design, which eventually guided her to an art career.
Moore-Avinger comes from a family of social workers and teachers, which led her to become an educator as well as an artist.
“It’s in my blood, something I couldn’t get away from,” Moore-Avinger says about her passion for teaching and inspiring her students to create art.
Moore-Avinger will not stop her journey as an art teacher after her class is over. She has been trained on curriculum in classrooms and plans to use her skills in future classroom settings. She will also be teaching a painting remix class at The Gibby Center for the Arts in Middletown, Del.
Her colleague at the summer camp, Jennifer Kilfara-Polillo, says Moore-Avinger is an ideal teacher and will succeed in her future endeavors.
“Ayanna is a seasoned instructor and exudes a calm confidence,” Kilfara-Polillo says. “She demonstrated strong organizational skills and a high level of preparation during her pre-camp, energizing the students for the day. It was an honor to work with Ayanna and I would be grateful to do so again.”