Mandela art project at Dover and Tippecanoe
April 30, 2012
By Olivia Steidl , Tippecanoe School for the Arts and Humanities, Grade 8
Everybody always says, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but Tippecanoe and Dover are being judged in just this manner. To help remedy this situation, the schools are working with two local artists to create mandalas for the external surface of the building on the east façade. As you may or may not know, two MPS schools with creative arts programs are housed within the drab Gustav A. Fristche Education Complex, 2969 S. Howell Ave.
“We want to let people know art goes on here,” Kate Bradley said. Bradley is a new, innovative Artist-in-Residence Tippecanoe and Dover have welcomed in. Kate Bradley, with her wonderfully talented assistant, Mary Sugiyama, has big plans for making the outside of these artsy schools reflect the inside through her mandala curriculum.
Artists Bradley and Sugiyama are employed at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts. They have been collaborating with Arts @ Large for 10 years. Arts @ Large is a non-profit organization based in Milwaukee that partners community artist-educators with teachers and students from MPS schools to supplement arts in the classroom. Tippecanoe and Dover are both Arts @ Large schools, which means the organization funds their extracurricular arts programs.
According to Heather Frank, art teacher at Tippecanoe, Arts @ Large is a valuable resource for MPS schools. “I think Arts @ Large is one of the most amazing arts organizations for our community because Arts @ Large brings such wonderful artists to the schools,” she said. “And they integrate arts into our curriculum so well!”
MPS schools, such as Tippecanoe and Dover, have been forced to cut arts from their budget, leaving a gaping void to be filled in the schools’ art curriculum. “Without Arts @ Large, many schools wouldn’t have the arts opportunities Arts @ Large provides,” Frank said.
Tippecanoe and Dover have been gifted with a special integrated mandala curriculum, led by Bradley and Sugiyama. Mandalas are culturally significant circle art, generally created by a group of people. “Mandalas are used as meditation and collaboration,” Mary Sugiyama said. “When we were looking back at the history of mandalas, we realized before there was communication from continent to continent, they were all making circle art,” Kate Bradley added. “Circle art is in all of us, and always has been.”
Mandalas are created in all cultures, from Navajo Indians to Tibetan monks, and usually signify unity, community, and interconnectedness. “It made sense for the two schools to come together and create a sacred space and a bond through art,” Bradley said.
Three large 8 foot x 8 foot mandalas will be created to beautify the exterior of the building. Besides the mandalas, silhouettes of students engaging in various activities will surround the schools’ names. A colorful free-form banner of textile patterns will unify the silhouettes. Acrylic paint on econolite, an aluminum signboard material, will be the media used to construct the mandalas, silhouettes, and banner. These materials will ensure the artwork will last for many generations to come.
Incorporating the ideas of over 500 students—kindergarten through eighth grade—from the two different schools is not an easy task. First, during the design process, multiple groups of students will collaborate on one sketch of a possible mandala, each individual student getting the chance to add his or her own unique elements onto the final mandala designs. Then, different groups of students will work on the color schemes of the mandalas. Bradley and Sugiyama will select certain patterns from the numerous student sketches that follow a main theme. Once the three mandalas have been chosen, the designs will be transferred onto the econolite material and painted by the students.
To create the student silhouettes, photographs will be taken of students engaging in activities, such as reading, dancing, and painting. The photos will then be projected onto econolite, traced, and painted black. For the textile design, students will study the background of cultural patterns and textiles, and create their own designs for the final product. “This process will utilize everybody’s skills, and also help develop new skills in students,” said Sugiyama.
Between now and May 31, Tippecanoe and Dover’s creative juices will be flowing, designing new exterior enhancements to their otherwise dull façade. Not only will the mandalas symbolize unity between the two schools, they will also help reveal to the community what really goes on behind the doors of the Fritsche Complex—art and creativity through collaboration.
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