Dear Friends, Fellow Artists and Educators,
Through my web site and my virtual gallery, Species of Earth, many of you have made my acquaintance, and become familiar with my work. Now, allow me to introduce myself to you in one of my most cherished roles – that of an educator, a teacher of children.
My name is Elton Braithwaite, and for many years, now, I have had the privilege of teaching children in school systems throughout the Northeast. My content area, of course, is art. Using a carefully crafted presentation that includes a gallery experience, storytelling, demonstration, and discussion, I introduce children to an ancient and vanishing art form that has been my passion since I was a boy growing up in Jamaica – the art of traditional woodcarving.
The gallery experience, provided by a display of sculptures that children can view and touch, offers children an interactive experience which engages both their interest and attention. During this initial segment of my presentation, I speak briefly about the inspiration for each piece, and, where it is appropriate, I also address the historic, ecological and cultural influences that can be seen in my work. Examples of these influences include descriptions of various woods and their qualities, an introduction to African mask making, and a brief history of the South American and Caribbean Indian cultures.
As I instruct the children about the tools used in traditional wood carving, I demonstrate the techniques that I use by creating a relief carving that will remain in the school as a remembrance. When children from the audience are invited to come forward to try their hand with mallet and chisel, there is usually a long line of enthusiastic participants.
The second, but no less important aspect of my work with children, is to reveal to them their importance as individuals, and their ability to direct their lives. The storytelling and discussion that I bring into the classroom is replete with messages stressing my own personal values – perseverance, patience, self-discipline and hard work in pursuit of a goal. From my own history of struggle, growing up in the poverty that was the legacy of colonialism in the Caribbean and leaving Jamaica as a young man to establish myself in the United States, I convey to the children the importance of following their dreams and developing their abilities, especially in the face of adversity.
Does this sound very serious? It is, indeed. A serious message wrapped in an exciting package that children find both fascinating and fun. Whether I engage the entire student body in the impersonal setting of a large auditorium, or a small group attending a workshop, the children listen attentively and respond with enthusiasm. Teachers and parents who have witnessed my ability to communicate with even difficult, at-risk children are my strongest supporters, and many schools invite me back again and again.
So, please, look through my brochure, review my resume, and read one of the many newspaper articles that have been written about my school programs. If you have not already done so, visit my virtual gallery to browse through my work. If this seems like an experience that would benefit your students, please contact me at your convenience.