An artist’s ability to take a simple concept and expand it into multiple mediums that can connect with hundreds of people never fails to amaze the viewer. At Bailey’s Elementary School, teacher Allyn Kurin took such common items as fabric pieces, wooden pickets, and plywood panels, to tell family stories of the students who attend the school. Other teachers and staff were joined by volunteers who helped the children turn their stories into art. The Community “Art Reach” Celebration was held last week before an appreciative audience of parents and families.
In the lower grades, students made “fabric stories” about family history. Each student interviewed a family member, wrote a little story, and then translated the story into a fabric picture. Many of the stories would break your heart – telling of travails in coming to America, or an auto accident, or a mean person at work. One small fabric panel had a road, complete with centerline markings, stitched in the middle, and fabric figures representing a father and mother trying to cross from the bottom to the top. In every case, the fabric story demonstrated very clearly what the printed page nearby contained.
Visitors during the celebration strolled down hallways lined with colorful picket fences that reflected the varied cultural backgrounds of Bailey’s students. Some of the pickets clearly were meant to represent people, with nose, eyes, and hair at the top, and feet painted at the bottom. Several girls painted replications of colorful native costumes; one I recall clearly was by a little Pakistani girl who painted a bright flowered dress, and a small hand perfectly outlined and decorated with traditional and elaborate henna designs.
Thirty-one huge mural panels were displayed both inside and outside of the school. Many of these classroom projects focused on environmental and global themes. Perhaps the most novel mural was displayed in the outdoor courtyard, where a butterfly theme prevailed. Students had painted a landscape scene with native plants and flowers, then attached ceramic butterflies they had made and fired. Additional butterflies were attached to the low wooden fence that surrounded real garden plantings. The overall effect was three-dimensional, and it was hard to tell where nature stopped and art began!
The current Art at the Mason District Governmental Center program features nature photography by local artist Patricia Deege. Many of the color photos on display were taken in Alaska and Wyoming, but there is one photograph of a monarch butterfly that rivals those mentioned above by the Bailey’s students. This “Endless Journey” by Ms. Deege is sponsored by the Arts Council of Fairfax County and my office, and may be viewed Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m.