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Of painters and putters

What do artists like Banksy and Bob Ross have to do with a round of miniature golf?

Not much, unless you are in Kim Urbanski’s art class at Godwin Heights Middle School.

Recently, as part of an art history unit, Urbanski gave her seventh- and eighth-graders the assignment of creating miniature golf holes based on renowned artists and their works.

“Art history is a tough lesson to teach, and so if there’s a way to engage students, they really get into it,” she said. “Having a mini golf course was a way to get them engaged.”

The unit took about two weeks to complete and culminated in an event that invited all classes in the middle school to come to the school’s media center and take a swing (or two or three) at the student-created miniature golf stations.

Par for the (Art) Course

Bolstered by her personal love of miniature golf, Urbanski got the inspiration for the lesson from the Art of Education website. Students spent about a week researching and becoming familiar with a dozen different artists she suggested.

After students divided into groups based on which artist most resonated with them, the fun began. They spent another week conceptualizing and creating a miniature golf hole based on their artist’s work.

“I gave them green paper and lots of cardboard, tape, cups… and this is what we get,” said Urbanski, gesturing to the different putt-putt stations in the media center.

Eighth-graders Greg Patterson, Majer Davenport, and Shahari Hunnicutt were excited to share with people who stopped by to putt the hole they created based on the work of abstract artist Nestor Toro.

“We chose him because we like to throw paint,” said Majer, who said the assignment was unlike anything he’d done before.

A Round of Golf on a Sculpture (in the Round)

Eighth-grader Jonny Paz-Duron and his team used cardboard to craft a miniature golf hole that involved a sculpture of a bridge that Impressionist Claude Monet depicted in one of his paintings. While flowers and water lilies may figure prominently in Monet’s works, Jonny said the architectural elements in Monet’s paintings fit well with creation of a miniature golf hole.

“We had fun making it,” Jonny said.

Nearby was a popular — and technically difficult — putting green created by eighth-graders Dora Velasquez, Evelyn Lopez-Velasquez, Windy Mencho and Gabrielle Cannon. Their hole depicted “The Scream”, an 1893 composition by Norwegian Expressionist Edvard Munch.

Gabrielle Cannon said that the background was difficult to make, as her group wanted to stay true to the colors used in the original painting. The team worked through lunch on the day of the miniature golf event to finish painting their putting green. Their hole had a twist that drew a reaction from everyone who took a swing: in their version of the composition, the male figure depicted in Munch’s painting was created using a picture of Principal Bradley Tarrance.

While the event was a fun one for Urbanski’s students and those who came to play, the golf stations did more than entertain. Each team of students wrote a statement that explained why they chose that particular artist and provided information about the artist’s style, life and works.

Eighth-grader Cody Mimes was part of a team of students who created a miniature golf hole based on the graffiti artists Banksy.

“We were inspired by his art. It’s graffiti, but often it has a deeper meaning to it,” Cody said. “This piece we made is not a copy of one of his works, but it is inspired by his style.”

The miniature golf masterpieces achieved the engagement Urbanski hoped to see.

“They’ve had a lot of fun with this,” she said.

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Bridie Bereza
Bridie Bereza
Bridie Bereza hails from Lansing and has worked in the Grand Rapids area as a reporter, freelance writer, and communicator since graduating from Aquinas College in 2003. She feels privileged to cover West Michigan's public schools and hopes to shed a little light on the amazing things happening there through her reporting.

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