Artist in the schools

From the beginning, my art seemed “accessible” to animals, adult humans and their children. Early on, I was encouraged to apply for “artist in the schools” residencies in several states. I did several in Utah and Wyoming; it was a way to get more projects and experiments “realized”.  At the same time I was wary of these projects. The reasons I avoided it at times were two: I knew the art world degraded artists who worked with children as not being serious artists, and I felt it was in some ways a cheat to help children fall in love with a nature and the environment we adults seem determined to destroy by the time the children reached adulthood. I still feel this, and our seeming disregard of dealing with climate change drives me crazy. But I did do some work with school children.

Playing Andy Goldsworthy in a nearby creek

I did a summer workshop, a 2 week “day camp” for kids with the community college in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was a great introduction to environmental art for kids. I showed them images from my extensive collection of environmental art. We looked at and tried out the art of Andy Goldsworthy, Hamish Fulton, Richard Long, Chris Drury, Nancy Holt, and others. We painted sticks with patterns and stuck them out in the landscape in different patterns to see how they looked in different situations.


Children paint sticks and arrange them in different patterns in the landscape


We looked at ancient petroglyphs and pictographs and drew with chalk on the parking lot. We “walked” a design based on ancient “Nazca” drawings. (This works best in snow.) We did sun prints and rock mosaics outdoors. We did clay “Charles Simmons” miniature Anasazi ruins and set them outdoors. We had a visit from Wyoming Game and Fish Department to tell us about the needs of wildlife. And we built a branch pile sculpture.  Our final project was to hand build clay birdhouses, making sure they fit the size requirements to be useful to local birds. They used coil, slab and pinch pot techniques with raku clay. I bisque fired them and we wrapped them in sawdust, straw, and rags to do a sawdust firing in an old steel drum. They came out looking “cloudy” with grey and black smudges, looking unusual but “natural”. My great disappointment was that the kids and the parents liked them so well they wouldn’t hang them outdoors, feeling they were artworks and should be on display in the living room!


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