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Art for the atrium: students spring into action and allow their creativity to blossom into an attractive exhibit.

Students spring into action and allow their creativity to blossom into an attractive exhibit.

Imagine an atrium nine stones high in a hotel lobby. Imagine your art class has been asked to decorate this lobby. The eighth-grade advanced art class at Hillside Intermediate School met this interesting challenge when the school's art department was invited to decorate the lobby of the new Embassy Suites Hotel. A mutual partnership had been formed with the school and the hotel, both located in Salt Lake City, Utah. In return for the school's help, the hotel offered to provide space for the school's spring exhibit, a reception for the students and their parents and a free dinner at the hotel for each participating student and two guests. At the completion of the project, money was donated to Hillside's art department.

The class' first concern was how they would fill the enormous space uniquely and attractively. When students draw, especially at the intermediate level, they tend to do their work on a small scale. The young people would need to learn to draw their work substantially larger than usual. Flags were a possibility, but would only provide a two dimensional appearance. Mobiles would fill more space and be intriguing because of their continual movement. The students decided to create mobiles.

The hotel officials suggested a spring theme since the project would be displayed in March. The class decided to create flower mobiles from insulation board, P.V.C. pipe and rope. Each student was asked to draw a semi-realistic wild flower. A hotel representative selected six of the flowers from the class. The artists whose flowers were selected became team captains in the project. Each of the six teams designed and created five or six flowers from Styrofoam material obtained in 4' x 4' (122 cm x 122 cm) sheets, with thicknesses varying between 1/2" to 3" (1.27 cm x 8 cm). The six teams were given freedom to proceed with the creation of their flowers. Some teams chose to use the team captain's flower and reproduce it in five or six different colors. Some teams used five different flowers, each painted a different color.

During the second step, students solved the problem of enlarging their 8 1/2" x 11" (22 x 28 cm) sheets of paper to 4' x 4' (122 cm x 122 cm) pieces of Styrofoam by using a grid enlargement method, or by drawing their original projects on the large sheets of insulation board. Others used an opaque projector to enlarge their flowers, then drew directly on the insulation board in pencil.

With teacher supervision, the students cut out the drawn flowers using a sabre saw and painted them with acrylics. Again, the different teams had unique ways of producing the finished flower. Some teams chose to have each individual team member work on one flower from start to finish; others worked as a team to finish each flower.

When the flowers were finished, the students needed to test their mobiles using P.V.C. pipe suspended from a hanging rope. This wasn't possible in their 8' (244 cm) high classroom so the class went outdoors in the school's courtyard to design their mobiles. They climbed trees, hung the rope from branches, attached the pipe to rope and secured the flowers to the pipe. Each time a new flower was completed, the process outside continued. The constant challenge was to achieve the perfect balance on the mobile. It was not anticipated that the P.V.C. pipe would fail to hold some of the heavier flowers without bending. To stiffen the pipe, dowels were inserted in the P.V.C.s.

When the mobiles were complete they were ready to hang from the enormous skylight above the atrium. The hotel contracted a window washer to help with the project. The employee crawled on the pipes that supported the atrium to attach the ropes that would hold the mobiles. The ropes were let down into the lobby where the mobiles were assembled by the teacher and students, then raised to the desired height. Once the innovative flowers were hung, the lobby delighted hotel guests and gave a boost of pride and self-confidence to the young artists. The students learned to draw on a larger scale, were able to mix colors more skillfully and hosted a very successful spring art show in the hotel lobby.

Ray Meik is the art teacher and Gayle Hughes is the volunteer coordinator at Hillside Intermediate School, Salt Lake City, Utah.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Hughes, Gayle
Publication:School Arts
Date:Apr 1, 1991
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