Eighth-grade art assignments are taking on a grand new scale right here in Louisville. Students at Western Middle School dropped out of their comfort zone and elevated their thinking to contribute to an installation currently on display at The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. Under the direction of Ehren Reed, outreach programs manager for Louisville Visual Art, students were guided through different techniques of printmaking, fabric dying and painting to create a small art exhibit representative of deep-sea life in the main lobby of The Kentucky Center in honor of the current run of “The Little Mermaid.”
Reed, an artist in residence who moved to Derby City from San Francisco three years ago, has been impressed with the Louisville community as a whole and the supportive and collaborative nature in regard to the arts. The installation she’s helped realize here is an artistic representation of what it would be like to be “Under the Sea,” which appropriately greets those lucky enough to hold tickets to the sold-out run of “The Little Mermaid.” The endeavor is a partnership with Broadway in Louisville, Louisville Theatrical Association and Louisville Visual Art.
To create the installation, Reed developed a program for students that encourages thought beyond the creation of a single work of art, and eventually led them to an expansive view of how to create a work of art in a collaborative setting, a setting that activates a large space such as The Kentucky Center. This teaches a valuable lesson of contribution and the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
Another important aspect to the development of this installation was the students’ conceptual approach to a somewhat abstract rendering of the ocean. They had to consider how to convey feeling, emotion and a sense of place through their art – something not commonly grasped by so young a group of students. But this collection of burgeoning artists were up to the task. As you walk through the installation, you are transported to the setting of one of Disney’s most treasured animated films and all the wonder and delight that comes with it.
Reed has tremendous joy and energy in her voice when she speaks about the project: “I think that one of the biggest benefits of this program is that it pushes them outside of their comfort zones. They are accustomed to working in traditional art forms. We were largely textile-based with this creation, not typically used in art curriculum.”
Reed’s main role as the outreach program manager is to teach the majority of the outreach programs, typically third grade through high school level. She travels to different schools throughout the county and has extensive experience working with children.
“Working with this particular group was very exciting for me, conceptualizing the whole process, conveying the grandeur of the whole, creating these components in the classroom,” she adds. “It’s all pretty improvisational … an experimental, evolving process.”
Most grade-school art projects are a singular effort. This one called upon the power of a number of young artists, and when it came together, the light in the student’s eyes offered a huge payoff.” VT
By Kristie Hicks Crenshaw