July 2016

by Cassie Stephens/ Art Teacher Johnson Elementary

Most of my students are pretty used to my wild and wacky style of art-teaching attire. In fact, if my ensembles don’t meet their high expectations of crazy, I’m often reprimanded. “That outfit is just meh, Mrs. Stephens,” said one fourth grade future stylist. “You can do better.” In short, I get no respect.

Cassie Stephens shows off her Pollock-inspired poodle skirt

Cassie Stephens shows off her Pollock-inspired poodle skirt

For our school-wide art show, I knew I wanted to create a special outfit for the occasion. The theme of our art show was a 1950s diner, and I already had prepped the kids to dress in rolled jeans and poodle skirts for the big day. But what was a crazy art teacher to wear?

Then an idea hit me like a splat of paint: I could have the kids create the fabric for my creation. I had a giant canvas drop cloth in my vast collection of things-I’ve-never-used-but-cannot-throw-away. All I needed was house paint, brushes, and kids that dig making a mess. And I’m never short on the last one.

I dropped by the Home Depot in Franklin and shared my idea with a super helpful gentleman named Dave. He graciously mixed up small cans of magenta, turquoise, lime green, coral, and plum. Noticing my wild attire, he asked if I was a teacher or a performer (both, actually!). We got to chatting, and when he found out what I had in store for my students and the paint, he arranged for me to have the paint at a discount. When folks make an effort to help a teacher in any way, they aren’t just helping one person; they are impacting the lives of their students. I was thrilled at Dave’s kindness.

Art students Madison and Alex with Mrs. Stephens during the annual school-wide art show

Art students Madison and Alex with Mrs. Stephens during the annual school-wide art show

At school, my young artists were in the thick of art show preparation. To add another layer of crazy to an already busy time, I’d call them in small groups outside. Without telling them what we were up to, I’d simply say, “Take off your shoes, put on an apron, and meet me outside.” When the splatter-painting kids returned with freckles of paint on their arms, laughing and excited, the other kids couldn’t wait to find out what was in store for them.

Outside, they gently dipped a brush in any color of their choice and flung it at the canvas. Of course, everyone’s favorite splatterer, Jackson Pollock, was introduced, and the kids quickly decided that this was the best way to make art. By the end of the week, I had a drop cloth that would make Pollock proud.

Back home, I put the sturdiest needle in my sewing machine and stitched the thick cloth into a 1950s-style circle skirt. This skirt was so thick with paint that it literally stood up on its own! On the night of the art show, the kids were thrilled to see their splatter-painted creation made into a skirt. Not only did they have artwork on display throughout the school but on the art teacher as well! It was a memorable experience and a great way to end the school year.

Johnson Elementary art students splatter paint on canvas

Johnson Elementary art students splatter paint on canvas

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