Phoenix students recently received a multifaceted lesson as artist and storyteller Christopher Agostino brought his StoryFaces performance to Emerson J. Dillon Middle School.
With a full color palette in front of him, Agostino told several stories with Chinese and Japanese cultural roots. As he told each story, he used paint to transform students’ faces into the various scenes and characters. His stories ranged from comics to the supernatural, with some tales even based on Greek mythology.
“Some of these are 2000-year-old stories,” Agostino said. “But it’s these 2000-year-old stories that are still relevant in today’s world. These are stories of heroism. Be the hero in your own life.”
In addition to the tales of heroism, Agostino provided students with a comprehensive lesson, said art teacher Beth Pritchard.
“His sixth-grade performance was great and connected perfectly to the mask-making unit that we teach in our art curriculum! He talked about the importance of colors and icons as a way to represent symbols and meaning in art,” Pritchard said. “His stories ranged from a variety of different cultures from around the world and really made that historical connection that we talk about in class while researching for our own mask-making projects. This was a great way to incorporate everything into one presentation.”
A performance weaving together folktales, music and art captivated students at Emerson J. Dillon Middle School in early May.
The program, “StoryFaces,” featured sixth and eighth-grade students as they were transformed into characters and scenes from different folktales. Artist and storyteller Christopher Agostino shared tales that were inspired by different cultures in different time periods. With the help of student volunteers, Agostino made the stories come to life through art.
“All cultures use masks and makeup,” Agostino said. “Masks and makeup are used for theatrical purposes, for celebrations and festivals, and for individual self-expression.”
To illustrate these three forms of masks, Agostino took his paint brush and used students’ faces as canvases. He transformed one student into a Samurai warrior while discussing the Japanese culture behind the artwork.
According to EJD art teacher Beth Pritchard, Agostino’s visit was a true cultural experience for the students. “The storytelling, connecting literacy with the arts, talking about world cultures … everything in his performance has a strong tie to the curriculum,” she said.
The performance was made possible through the Arts-in-Education service at the Center for Instruction, Technology & Innovation.