Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Building the Reef Through Community Outreach

Chances are, if you give kids some paint, they'll smile. Give them some paint -- and some things they never knew they could paint with -- and they'll grin.

Recently, the League of Reston Artists (LRA), a local art organization to which I belong, asked me to design an art activity for Terraset Elementary School in Reston, VA. Each year, Terraset holds its Earth Day Carnival to celebrate its history, which is uniquely rooted in the environment. The school -- which features a rooftop garden -- was constructed into a hillside in 1976 as an energy conservation measure.  This year, the school wanted to expand the environmental theme into one that also encompassed good nutrition, exercise, and creative expression.  Terraset had approached LRA in hopes that our organization would be able to feature some artists at work during the event.

I decided to take things one step further. Because caring for the earth is everyone's responsibility, why not design an interactive eco-art project that would let both students and their families leave their marks on a larger work? And so, "Build the Reef" was born. A take on my sea-themed Graffiti Reef series, this activity would mesh with the carnival's environmental theme. Cardboard panels (measuring about 4'x3') would serve as the background. Students and passerby would help depict a coral reef using basic art supplies and everyday household items as painting and textural tools.

On the day of the carnival, fellow LRA member Ursula Griessel brought to the school a large drywall panel, along with lots of paper towel and toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, netting, and even some plastic packaging for apples. Before the event, we set to work cutting, assembling, and gluing some of the items into forms resembling coral. The apple packaging made for great "bubbles." Ursula's daughter even made little "clams" out of discarded plastic!

Good weather made for a great turnout. Kids -- and their families -- had fun scraping paint onto the cardboard panels with old gift cards; spraying fabric paint through doilies; carving into paint with chopsticks; and using scrub brushes, cut up bath mats, and toilet paper rolls as stamps. The smallest reef builders decorated cardstock sea creatures, which we later glued to the panels.

So many people stopped by our booth! In fact, four panels -- enough for an installation -- were painted by the end of the carnival. Ursula and I added some finishing touches and donated the panels, on behalf of LRA, to Terraset after the carnival. What a great experience -- thanks, Terraset!


Valerie said...

FANTASTIC! I love kid art!!!! And what a great project, too. Great work!

Friend of Terraset said...

This was a wonderful activity! Terraset is now proudly displaying the artwork in the school! It is so gorgeous.... literally!

JessiVille said...

Wow Karen! I love the graffiti reef! What a wonderful interactive project that targets being friendly to the environment while bringing fun,joy and awareness to the kids and the community! You must be so proud to be able to contribute like this!

Thank you for your comment on my blog too. I am definately leaning toward the sticker graffiti idea and I loved the magnet art idea. I'm afraid it would be lost on my community here but I can always drive to Eugene! Jessi xox