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ArtPrize Artist Helps Students Get Messy, Creative

Markers, crayons and paint covered by more markers, crayons and paint created a whimsical, fun, sometimes messy art project for Nickels Elementary School students.

“We are creating layers,” said artist Jennifer Mercede, a professional artist commissioned to create a large-scale mural with the help of students, for permanent installation at the school, 8638 Byron Center Ave. SW.

Mercede, of Portland, OR, came to the school to share her love of art. Mercede also involved children in creating her first ArtPrize piece, Rockin’ Colors Mural, outside of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. As part of their art studies 40 sixth graders, chosen through a lottery, spent a day recently at ArtPrize. Mercede came to Byron Center the following week to begin work on the new mural.Sixth grader Enrique Domeier stretches for a broad paint stroke

At Nickels, students made broad brush strokes, small lines, added dots and flurries of color to the mural, with every touch becoming a part of the finished piece. “What you did is definitely a part of it,” Mercede said following a class period of work on the mural.

While the technical name for Mercede’s style may be abstract expressionism, the artist embraces it more like playing. “What’s very important to me in my art is to have fun,” she said.

Sixth grader Mindy Markus adds to the muralA Paint Stroke from Every Student

Art teacher Molly Marshall’s more than 280 students worked on the piece, which will hang in the school’s Exploratory Hallway, near the art room. Mercede’s visit was funded by the Fine Arts Boosters.

“Have fun. Make big marks wherever you want. Make little staccato marks, short and sweet,” said Mercede. “Whatever you’re doing, close your eyes… You are letting go, having fun.”

She said art is all about self-expression. “I just want them to experience this type of making art – the expressive style, getting their experiences out,” she said.Sixth grade students dance to create movement in front of artist Daniel Rozin’s ArtPrize entry “Trash Mirror”

She also encouraged students to follow their passion, no matter what it is.

ArtPrize Adventure

During the ArtPrize field trip, funded by a $100 transportation grant from ArtPrize, students explored pieces outside The B.O.B, at the Kendall College of Art and Design, and the Gerald R. Ford Museum. They included a stop at Mercede’s mural at the Children’s Museum.

“Showing them images on the screen isn’t the same as being able to see and touch,” Marshall said, noting that ArtPrize offers a way for students to talk to and see real-world working artists and think about careers.

Students stop in front of artist Jennifer Mercede’s ArtPrize entry Rockin’ Colors MuralSixth grader Ashley Popma was impressed. “I think it’s really cool and I like the creative ideas,” she said. “A lotof things here inspire me.”


Jennifer Mercede

Art Prize

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio


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