Today was one of the high points of my summer. As an artist, writer and public art advocate, I was so excited to see the final installation of a children’s art project, that I had a part in making happen. The “Art in the Park Project” is a MAD (Mountain Arts District) project that allowed 4 Randolph County student artists to have their creations displayed in a public park in Elkins WV. The project was a collaborative effort between many in the community and a grant was awarded to MAD from The Snowshoe Fondation for the projects creation.The funds allow us to print 4 panels that measure 5′ X 6′ feet and were installed on the back of a block restroom building in the Elkins City Park.
The students artwork was selected from at an end of year student art show at the Randolph County Community Arts Center by two arts professionals in our area. Then the images were photographed and sent to a printer who printed the images on vinyl and wrapped them around sign grade aluminum. Then the City of Elkins, Parks and Recreation department installed them on the back wall of the restroom. The process of working with Randolph County school teachers, the Randolph County Community Arts Center, the judges, the children, our printer and the City of Elkins, took around 4 months. It took all of us working together to make this unique display happen and the results are beautiful and have garnered high praise from anyone who stops by to look at them.
It was such a pleasure meeting these children. They range in age from 9 to 15, from elementary school to high school covering a wide range of schools in West Virginia’s largest county. Each student took time to sign their name to the large prints and took a group shot with members of the community that worked together to make the project a success.
The students and their families were proud to see their work displayed in such a large way. Some have been doing art most of their lives and for others this was their first real attempt at making art, but all were happy to be part of the experience. The prints will remain on display in the park for about 5 years and at that point either MAD or the Parks and Recreation Dept. will make plans for their replacement.
It is my personal hope that this set of prints inspires more students and exposes more people to a wider verity of images and expressions in the world of art. I hope they are seen as beautiful and raise questions and spark conversations that we never had in our park before.
I really enjoyed being a fly on the wall while the panels were being installed. I got to see the first reactions of park visitors to the pieces. It was wonderful to see many visitors walk up closer to see the images better, to see three older women stop along the sidewalk to talk about what they liked about the prints. It was wonderful to see a jogger stop in his tracks, to just stop and look…. This is the purpose of art… To make us stop, look and think…Then explore our familiar world in a whole new way !
In the end Mountain Arts District will apply for a second grant to continue the project again next year. MAD hopes to spread some of the wonderful art work around to several counties over the next few years. Increasing rural communities exposure to the arts is one of our organizations main goals and to be a part of making that happen is something I am proud of.