At the end of June, a group of eager kids ages 11-17 leapt into Progressive Arts Alliance’s immersive two-day hip-hop camp at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA). Centering on the elements of hip-hop, the campers learned the basics of DJing, MCing, breakdancing, and graffiti. They also worked on making beats and learned about and made art in response to the featured exhibit at MOCA, Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia, located in the museum’s Mueller Family Gallery.
Divided into several groups by age, students participated in three sessions each morning, followed by lunch and three afternoon classes. PAA instructor Connor Musarra, a PAA All-Star who first learned to DJ through hip-hop camp years ago, fostered a natural rapport with the kids and encouraged them to explore several techniques on the turntables as he guided them through progressively more complex sounds including the stab and reverse stab scratch, combining stab scratches to create a “military scratch,” to back spinning, transformer scratching, and more. By allowing the campers to explore and discover sounds, they built confidence and curiosity to investigatethe art form known as turntablism. The teen group responded especially well and answered Connor’s on-the-spot assignments (utilize three techniques, keep it for 16 beats etc.) by supporting each other and rising to the challenge each time. This portion of the workshops took place daily in the Gund Commons on the Museum’s ground floor, an intentionally dark and quiet area perfect for the medium.
Educator and graffiti artist Poke took the students through a brief history of writing graffiti through excerpts of the seminal film, Style Wars, made in 1983 (ancient history if you ask the kids). Poke began instruction by drawing his name in several types of letters, emphasizing the importance of scale, style, placement, and color. Then, he showed each group how to draw letters in three-dimensional graffiti style, building to draw their whole name. The older students generally had some experience drawing with this approach, but many of the younger participants were learning completely new information. On the last day, we asked every student to share the most impactful thing they learned, and many of the younger kids noted graffiti as something that will stick with them long after the end of camp. Piquing their interest in not only art but in writing too, graffiti is a powerful tool for education and communication.
Stay tuned for the second installment of the MOCA Camp Remix series.