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Classmates Find Art in Each Other’s Faces, Home State


For West Middle School students, “paper cuts” are part of the artistic process. That is, paper cuts in the form of their classmates’ faces and other intricate designs.

A multimedia collaborative art piece, “Painting Under Paper Cuts” is the handiwork of more than 200 seventh- and eighth-graders, created last spring and led by art teacher Janine Campbell and STEM teacher Jamie Dennett. It will be installed at Monroe Community Church, 800 Monroe Ave. NW, in Grand Rapids, to vie for the new ArtPrize Youth Collaboration Award sponsored by Western Michigan University. Student entries will be installed in venues across the three-square-mile ArtPrize district during the 19-day event, Sept. 20 to Oct. 8.

The piece is inspired by the paintings of artist Robert Rauschenberg, which incorporate various objects onto a painted surface, and by the paper cuts and printmaking of artist Caledonia Curry.

Nickels students design “A Pleasant Peninsula”

Collaboration and Competition

Middle School students will have some stiff competition from their younger counterparts at Nickels Elementary School, who also have a piece in the competition, celebrating the beauty of Michigan. At Nickels, art teacher Molly Marshall and STEM teacher Jessica Johnson led a collaborative project with 112 fifth- and sixth-graders last spring to create “A Pleasant Peninsula.” The ceramic tile mosaic of the state of Michigan is to be installed at Spectrum Health’s Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center, 100 Michigan St. NE in Grand Rapids.

Students worked with clay and used marble and glass to create fossils and fish, highlighted rivers, cities and water with tile pieces.

West Middle students, during M-STEP standardized testing week, used the artwork as acreative outlet, Campbell said. They chose colors and worked together to paint styrofoam panels, applying strings, buttons and cardboard to the foam, and create cut-paper portraits of students. In Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) class, they used a projector to trace portraits of students onto paper for their paper cuttings.

“I knew I wanted to do some sort of collaborative work that was inspired by a collective whole coming together to create something that was playful, tactile and really involves many of the senses,” Campbell said.

Students said they learned a lot about what they can do together using what they learn in school.

“I wasn’t expecting to be in ArtPrize but I think it has a chance of winning,” said eighth-grader Logan Richardson, who worked on the piece.

“Everybody was part of making it,” said eighth-grader Ashley Walter, who also added her mark. “We can say we are part of ArtPrize.”

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Painting Under Paper Cuts

A Pleasant Peninsula

Nickels’ ArtPrize entry is made on a foundation of clay

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. 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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