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