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Students learn to turn trash into treasure

Budding artists learn how to use recycled materials
by: Contributed photo Clare Brinkman, a seventh-grader at Damascus Middle School, works on her button robot at the Children’s Art Institute this summer.

Peggy Dills Kelter will never see an aisle in a grocery store in quite the same way.

'I'm not just shopping for what's inside the box, but I'm making consumer choices based on what's on the box,' she says.

What's on the box, whether it contains cereal, cake mix or other foodstuffs, are colorful patterns that can be turned into mosaics and other art media once the box is empty, she adds.

Kelter recently concluded teaching at the Children's Art Institute, a private summer school operated in cooperation with the Gresham-Barlow School District. The institute's theme this summer was 'Let's Go Green!' and emphasized using recycled materials in art, according to Linda Frazier, assistant director.

In its 26th year, the institute enrolled 107 students this summer, ranging in age from first grade through adulthood. The students learned how to draw, paint, use papier-mâché, handle clay, do printmaking, create mixed media and use other art forms to express themselves, Frazier says.

The institute took place on weekdays from July 11-21 at Hogan Cedars Elementary School, 1770 S.E. Fleming Ave., and concluded with a student art show the evening of July 21.

Kelter taught the high-school/adult class and noted her students learned to create mosaics out of cereal and cracker boxes, among other things.

'When you cut pieces out of these boxes, there's all these gorgeous colors,' she says, adding she particularly likes teaching adult students art.

'They don't give themselves the opportunity to play with art and enjoy it, and it's like their vacation,' she says.

One such adult was Carla Piluso, a member of the Gresham-Barlow School Board and a former Gresham police chief. Piluso has been going to the institute for 12 years. She used recycled tissue boxes to make a mosaic tile depicting the Statue of Liberty with playing cards depicting the New York City skyline in the background.

She adds that she learned of the institute through her daughter, Kate, who was attending West Gresham Elementary School 12 years ago and decided to attend with her.

'It's been a very cool mother-daughter thing,' she says, adding, 'In my working days it was pretty therapeutic to be removed from that law enforcement world and engaged in something like this.'

Budding artists

The majority of the students at the institute this year were younger folks like Olivia H. Johnson, 11, a seventh-grader at West Orient Middle School. Johnson says she attended the institute back in 2009, and this year took a class in making pots, tiles and other media.

She says she was particularly proud to make a Minnie Mouse and Pluto out of a CD, an egg carton, a toilet paper tube, spoons, beads and other items. However, not every endeavor she undertook was successful, she says.

'Sometimes what you want it to do doesn't always work out,' she says. 'I tried to make a caterpillar out of pom-pom balls, but it wouldn't stick together.'

Nonetheless she rates the institute a great experience.

'You get to make wonderful things and then you get to remember when you look at your art that you made that,' she says.

Clare Brinkman, 12, a seventh-grader at Damascus Middle School, has been going to the program since she was in first grade. She says the institute has opened her eyes to a variety of artistic forms.

'There's a lot of different techniques that I wouldn't have learned (on my own),' she says.

One thing she learned how to do was create a 'robot made out of buttons and bottle caps.

'I like using like normal objects in a different way because I wouldn't have thought of it,' she adds.

She also liked learning how to recycle materials into art. Otherwise, things like cans and other items might wind up in a landfill, she says.

'Then the landfill just gets bigger and bigger, and it takes over animal habitats,' she says.

Kody Thompson, 12, a seventh-grader at Dexter McCarty Middle School, studied drawing at the institute.

'We sometimes used recycled materials like paper grocery bags,' he says, noting he practiced drawing animals on bags.

'My favorite animal is kind of hard to draw, but it's a dragon,' he adds.

He also learned how to make a rubber stamp as well as how to outline a leaf on paper.

'Everything was so fun, so it's kind of hard to pin one thing as my favorite,' he says. 'It's just really fun and you get to learn a bunch of art.'

Frazier says teaching youngsters as well as adults about recycling through art makes impressions that last a lifetime.

'If you get them excited about recycling in art, you can get them to pass it on into other parts of their world,' she says.

Institute facts

The eight-day Children's Art Institute offers visual art classes to adults and children entering first grade through high school. Each day the classes run from 9 to 11:30 a.m. On the last day, the institute has a grand art exhibit in the evening showcasing all of the art for family and friends to enjoy.

To learn more, visit thechildrensartinstitute.org.