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LEAPS of IMAGINATION

December 15, 2017

Kids Put the Pieces Together

LEAPS of IMAGINATION received funding from the Maine Arts Commission Arts Learning grant to provide amazing opportunities this year for some midcoast schools. If you’re not familiar with the LEAPS program, this is what they ‘walk’ day to day: LEAPS of IMAGINATION brings local Maine mentor artists together with elementary school students and teachers in a collaborative school-day classroom program. Mentor artists interweave in-depth art making experiences with carefully chosen social justice and literature themes linked to the class curriculum. Our project empowers children to believe in their own capacity to create and to make change in both their local community and the larger world.

Thanks to Nancy Frohlich, founder and director of LEAPS of IMAGINATION, for sharing her latest blog post with the Maine Arts Education blog. Students from grade 4, St. George School, spent a day at the newly opened Bernard Langlais Preserve. 

Working in Langlais’ medium, on his home turf, next to his own studio brought the artist to life for St. George School’s fourth graders today. LEAPS’ mentor artists had been planning this visit for months. Although adults had anticipated children’s reactions, they hadn’t quite envisioned how children would put the pieces together.

Once kids had toured his workshop, they skipped around the property, astounded at the scale and detail of his sculptures. Sitting by the fireplace on a chilly morning, they listened to the story, “Why am I me?” Then, imagining what it must have been like to have been “Blackie” Langlais, they shared their insights with their classmates.

“He was creative – how he made the cow with the utter.” “He used a lot of random stuff.” “He doesn’t just use wood. He adds texture.” “With his bears, he adds creases.” 

He made his own tools.”  “In his photos he looked so serious. But if he really was serious, he’d make things serious. Instead he made them imaginatively!”  “He just went on and took a risk. If he made a mistake he just kept going and went with the surprises.”  “He made animals you can walk into.”  “He used ladders.” “He was smart.”  ” I can’t believe he made 3,000 sculptures!”  “He used a lot of measurements.” “He was inspirational!”

A few minutes later they began investigating animals and wood for themselves. Each child had a 12X12 piece of plywood on which to create a creature they identified with. They had plenty of time to “play” with the wood pieces, choosing them, adjusting them, and exchanging them. When they felt ready – they adhered them to their square.

We thought, what would happen if we put all the pieces together like a quilt? So that’s what we did! If you look closely you can see an eagle, a butterfly, a monkey, a chameleon, a cheetah, a wolf, a shark, a tiger, a horse, a hummingbird, a fish, a caribou, a pig, a bunny, a worm, and a whale. In the new year, we’ll install the art in the school. We bet our fourth grade Langlais experts will be excited to talk about the artist and how they approached this collective work of art.

We thank Cynthia Trone at the Langlais Sculpture Preserve for making us feel at home. We loved that roaring fire and the opportunity to become explorers on the artists’ own turf.

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