Bellcate Students have been creating “Staffatars” in many of our visual arts classes this quarter. Staffatars are Photoshop images of each of our Bellcate teachers and the students’ community placed into a surreal body form or one of more realistic art. One of our previous Interns and I came up with a basic questionnaire for staff to fill out as a starting point in creating the design. The students and I have gone around to interview teachers using the questionnaire to create each Staffatar. The students have also taken pictures of each of their teachers to use in our Photoshop artwork. Once we have the digital photo and the questionnaire, the student and I work on creating the Photoshop image from the information we have gathered. The student and I discuss what type of artwork he or she would like to create (ie: strange-humorous or serious-realistic). Sometimes the student is completely able to work on his or her image independently with only verbal direction and minor help with new ideas. I also assist some of our students with additional accommodations, when using the mouse, and will use verbal directions with them to click each Photoshop icon. This has been an artistic learning experience for each art student since the beginning of our last summer session.

In this new quarter, we have continued to create more Staffatars-Avatars with different students which have proven quite successful. We usually begin each image by “dragging” each of the staffs’ faces onto the Photoshop canvas. The student is then asked to clean up around the individuals face by using select tools to get rid of excess parts. Then the student will go on the internet, with guidance, to pick out images that match the answers to the staff’s questions. Once the student has gathered all the imagery that they plan to use, they will arrange the ‘layers” by putting one visual object on top of another. This gives the artwork a layered affect and allows the student to create the simulated world that their teacher has chosen. Many of the staff have greatly enjoyed their Staffatars and have asked me for a copy. These artworks have been a continuous source of learning with regards to Graphic Design, melding of art-technology, and the therapeutic model.

The purpose of this class is to better introduce and connect students to their Bellcate community and support students in the development of therapeutic relationships by getting to know their staff better. In this class each student will and has been able to learn more about the likes, strengths and interests of each of his or her friends (peers), staff, family, and surrounding community members. When the student graduates, he or she will have compiled a portfolio/binder of their staff’s, family members’, friends’, and community members’ avatars. This compilation of artwork can serve as a useful visual reminder of the strong lifelong relationships and community connections formed by our students while at Bellcate School.

Josh Sinz, Bellcate School Art Director