By Kathie Wagner
Students at Mendota Elementary School recently “planted” some unusual items in the
school garden, the result of a 30-hour artist residency conducted by VSA Wisconsin, an organization that makes the arts and arts education more accessible and inclusive for students with a wide range of abilities.
The students, including kindergarteners through fifth-graders, created concrete castings using fabric as the mold. The residency was led by VSA teaching artist Leslie Iwai, who has significant experience with installation art.
Nate Kirley, art teacher at Mendota, said the students were really fascinated by the process of watching a two-dimensional form (i.e., a piece of fabric) transform into interesting, organic three-dimensional shapes through the casting process. The project was completed in stages with each grade contributing in an age-appropriate way by sewing forms, casting with concrete and painting and decorating the forms. One first-grader reported that he did not have one favorite thing about the project — the whole project was his favorite.