CPS students create abstract art
Ken McLemore, Hope Public Schools

HOPE – The concept of abstraction as seen through the art of world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly is at the heart of a sculpture project produced by the third grade art class of Ms. Dana Cox at Clinton Primary School.

“We knew that we couldn’t work in glass; that would be potentially dangerous to the children,” Cox said. “So, we brainstormed the idea and came up with plastic bottles.”

The project is the result of a conference Cox attended two years ago.

“We all started brainstorming about how we could recreate that in our classrooms,” she said.

Cox said the project is colorful and fun to create; requires no real expense; and, each student can bring his or her artistic expression into the overall scheme through their choice of color and its application to the basic medium – a plastic water bottle.

Each student provides one or more sanitized plastic water bottles and applies a color scheme to the bottle using indelible markers. Then, the students cut the bottom from each bottle, and holding the neck of the bottle, they spiral cut the barrel of the bottle until they have a lengthy spiral of color.

Each spiral is then attached to the frame or the body of the sculpture and melted into the whole using a hand-held hair dryer, Cox said. She said each student chooses how the spiral will be applied as it is melted into the rest of the sculpture, producing a variety of colors and patterns, much like filaments of blown glass.

Therein, Cox said, lies the parallel to Chihuly’s work.

Born in Tacoma, Washington, in 1941, Chihuly was introduced to glass as a medium for art while studying interior design; and, after graduation from the pioneering glass program at the University of Wisconsin, he continued studies at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he later established its glass art program and taught for more than a decade, according to his official biography.

Chihuly’s work is in the collections of more than 200 museums worldwide, and he exhibited as a solo artist at the Louvre in Paris in 1986. He has created glass sculpture which is exhibited and is free-standing in cities across the globe, including Venice, Jerusalem, London, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Montreal, and Seattle.

Cox said Clinton Primary Principal Ashlea Stewart has made the student project a part of the courtyard at CPS.

“Ms. Stewart has been really good about finding things to do to give the students a sense of ownership to the building,” Cox said.

As to her student’s next project?

“We’re still brainstorming with the kids on how to approach it,” Cox said.