Searching through dozens of suspended terrariums, Abby Spellecy, 6, tries to find the one she created. She is not successful, so she moves on to look at other works of art on display at the Arts @ Large Life Cycles exhibit.
Abby is one of hundreds of students from nine Milwaukee Public Schools who created artwork for the exhibit. Other displays featured artwork demonstrating the life cycles of beans and apples.
“There’s a general lack of understanding of the environmental processes, and it was our idea to have an exhibit like this so people can come in and they can walk around and they can observe,” Arts @ Large Site Coordinator Sean Kiebzak said.
The interactive exhibit explores trees, plants and the earth’s natural processes through artwork created by students who participated in summer programs such as the Garden Club, Nature Camp and Kid Curators School Museum Project, in which students and teachers create art exhibits as part of the classroom curriculum.
“The whole process involves research, knowing something about your subject matter, and then translating that knowledge into something visual,” said Linda D’Acquisto, Arts @ Large professional development specialist and author.
The exhibit features artwork from Engleburg School and Carson Academy, which participated in the school museum project. The project was initiated by Kim Abler, art curriculum specialist for the Milwaukee Public Schools and co-director of Arts @ Large. It was funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
Among the many projects on display are shadow boxes created by students from Parkside School for the Arts with visual artist and author Andrea Skyberg. Artwork from the shadow boxes project was photographed and used to illustrate a book titled “CommuniTree,” by Skyberg.
Adela Ramirez, 6, flipped through the pages of “CommuniTree,” which includes her artwork, as her mother, Christina Ramirez, watched. According to Ramirez, helping a child become more environmentally aware is part of educating her.
Darrel Payne, an artist and graduate student at Cardinal Stritch University, helped students from Parkside School create life cycle murals during Nature Camp this summer. Payne is one of several local artists who assisted students with art projects.
Children also created artwork at the gallery, including painting rocks. Shannon Williams participated in the hands-on activity with her children, Ben, 3, Claire, 6, and Ella, 8. Williams said the art displayed at the exhibit is “a practical application of what [my children] are learning in school.”
Abler also sees art projects as great learning tools. “It’s a way of learning versus just reading a book and doing a worksheet. [Students] are creating: they are making things,” she said.
Founded in 2001, Arts @ Large is a nonprofit organization that serves Milwaukee Public School students, families and teachers, and connects arts and academics. The Life Cycles exhibit debuted during a recent Milwaukee Gallery Night and Day event.
“There’s something really special about taking [student] work and putting it in a public venue, especially on an opening night that’s open to the whole city,” D’Acquisto said.