Staying green has always been an important factor for June Tenyenhuis, as she plans the curriculum for her art classes. She wants to make sure that students stay consciously intentional about what they use and dispose of. In her 6.5 years of teaching art at Toronto District Christian High School, Tenyenhuis has made “Recycled Runway” a part of the grade 11 Art Curriculum. Students research trash, recycling, recycled art forms, and fashion designs in order to conceptualize what forms wearable art could possibly take on. During the planning and creating stages of the project, students give weekly presentations to their peers of their progress, and classmates critique their work, as well as share ideas and supplies.
The projects just wouldn’t be complete without displaying their outfits to an authentic audience. The final results of their work are presented via a fashion show put on by the students for staff, fellow students, and the school community. In preparation for this event, the participants watch and practice how to walk on a runway. They find their unique strut in the music, and work at showing confidence and persona. Grade 12 students who have already performed on the runway help to train their colleagues and to calm their nerves.
Students and staff from all disciplines collaborate their talents to make the show successful. The project manager and students set the stage; others create the music soundtrack; staff arranges for lighting; photography students hover around taking pictures and videos; still others take care of the sound system and the slides that are made to complement the show. The final presentation becomes a truly multidisciplinary project! The event begins with a short introduction of the project, and students take the stage to the sounds of encouraging cheers. The performers leave the event with feelings of recognition and affirmation for the work they have done throughout the semester.
Each of the runways have been tied in not only with recycling, but also with the different events that are going on in the world around them. One year it was the horror of sweatshops; another, it was the deaths during the Victorian Age, caused by crinoline fires. This year, students are focusing their work on creating awareness of our society’s obsession with purchasing new items of technology. Tenyenhuis has already created her outfit for this event: a dress she has knit entirely from old VHS tapes and head phone wires!
“I get really excited about this project… I live it!” says Tenyenhuis. She loves having the opportunity to lead her students as they scavenge for, salvage, and reconstruct items into forms of wearable art.
Each year the project is unique, and students are enthusiastic to join in. Not only are they creating quality work, they are also raising community awareness of the cultural issues they are learning about. Tenyenhuis’ project is an inspiring example of collaborative creativity and cultural awareness. We are looking forward to seeing the results of this year’s technology theme at their upcoming Recycled Runway in May!