Laura Cohn has conducted five different batik residencies that I have been privileged to participate in over the years: she was a visiting artist at a summer camp that I directed, she conducted residencies at the school my children attend; she has brought two residencies to the school where I teach, and I have attended a summer workshop in her studio in Bala Cynwyd. In each residency, Laura infused her love and knowledge of Indonesian culture as she guided the participants to create work that was original and collaborative. The colorful batik sculptures, flags, kites, and piece-quilts that adorn the halls are continuous reminders of the potential for all people to create beauty while collaborating under the loving guidance of an inspired artist like Laura Cohn.
Laura’s enthusiasm for the batik art form and love of the Indonesian culture was contagious for all the children involved in the project. Through this artist-in-residence experience the students were transported within the school environment to the outdoor, sun filled, color drenched creative world of Indonesia, where they experienced creating art for the community – their individual pieces literally transformed by others as the batiking process went on. And they had the joy of seeing their hard work brought together in a welcoming and beautiful hanging installation to be shared by all now and in the future.
Laura’s understanding of and passion for Indonesian art, culture, and customs deepened our modern culture study tenfold. The children were captivated not only by her lessons on language, cooking, dress, music, art, geography, and cultural norms, but also by her clear love for this very special archipelago. She offered the children hands-on experiences with a culture that would otherwise be accessible to them only through the pages of books. Much of what she shared with the children had a lasting impression. A whole year later, they still talk about Indonesia and feel proud of what they have learned about it.
I just passed a 4th grader this morning who greeted me with your greeting “selamat pagi” from Indonesia – this after a long summer. I find myself looking more carefully at news from Indonesia, and have a different perspective on reports now that I have worked with you.
Working with Laura was the highlight of our school year! She took our culture study of Indonesia to a deeper, more meaningful place. Laura’s love of Indonesia is infectious, she found ways to share her knowledge of art, language, geography, religion, and cultural traditions in ways that kept every child engaged. As they developed understandings and respect for Indonesian culture, the students also came to understand own culture more deeply. Parents were thrilled with the learning that happened (and the fun).