Article 10 of 10
by Debi West
At the end of the school year, it’s often tricky to come up with exciting, interesting and manageable art lessons that keep our kids engaged. Not to mention coming up with lessons that we still have enough supplies for! If you’re like me, you have used the majority of your media and your budget has run dry, so it’s now time to get super creative!
I have always been a big fan of Louise Nevelson’s installations and found that tying her art into a recyclable art lesson is very successful. The best part of the project is that kids are working independently, but in the end, all of their works come together to create a class (or a grade level if you dare) recyclable mural.
HERE’S HOW IT’S DONE: Students will bring in recyclable objects from home, such as milk cartons, plastic cups and bowls, straws, mesh bags that hold fruit, containers and plastic lids, paper towel rolls, etc. The list is truly endless, so push your students to think creatively. Since they have already brought in shoeboxes for their environmental installation project (April 2019 issue), they should know all the good places to gather old shoeboxes and once again, these are required.
Once all of these recyclable objects have been brought in, students will share what they have brought in and begin to organize these items inside their boxes. They can cut and layer and manipulate the items to create interesting and unique designs within their boxes.
Several years ago we even had a parent bring in a huge box of wooden pieces, so if you can’t afford to purchase wood pieces, ask your students if they know of anyone who might have access to wood scraps.
When students have created a design that they are happy with they begin to glue these pieces together in the box. I have found that wood glue works well and, of course, if you’re comfortable using glue guns, I recommend securing the pieces with hot glue.
STUDENTS THEN TAKE their boxes and put them together on a large piece of sturdy plywood. I usually get this donated from our local Home Depot since it’s a schoolwide project; so again, if your funds are low, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for donations. As a class, we organize these boxes onto the plywood, creating a class mural. Students work together and discuss the elements and principles of art to create the most eye-catching array of designs.
Finally, they decide on one color to spray the mural a monochromatic hue, similar to Louise Nevelson’s work. My students often choose gold, since it’s really beautiful and you don’t need as much paint to cover the objects.
I don’t recommend white paint because you will need double, and often triple the amount of the spray paint necessary for coverage. If a class were really adamant about white, however, I would have students independently paint their boxes, then glue them down onto the plywood, and give the final works one good spray after they’ve been adhered securely. Red, black, brown and orange are other colors that have worked well.
These collaborative recycled class sculptures are truly beautiful and I have found that my school enjoys hanging them for everyone to see. These are a wonderful reminder that “together we ART better” and that together, we all need to continue to recycle for the health of our planet.
I HAVE ABSOLUTELY LOVED SHARING a year’s worth of intro 3D art projects with you all. My hope is that you can use these lessons and springboard to come up with an amazing list of ideas to teach your students how to think and be successful with sculptural works.
Next up … see you next year with a yearlong series of service-learning projects called “Art with Purpose.”
click here for resources related to this article
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Debi West recently retired from her job as department chair and art educator at North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Georgia. She owns and operates WESTpectations Educational Consulting and she and her husband now reside in Hilton Head, South Carolina.