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Becoming one with many

Collaborative art project graces school hallway

Kent City — Sophomore Ben Cook said he really liked the idea of making drip wave art. “It helped me learn the process of how art comes together,” he said. 

Ben was not only intrigued by the class assignment, but inspired by American artist Jen Stark, whose work — using bright colors in patterns and drips — is often found on old buildings and other large public surfaces. 

Eliza Sutton, art teacher at the district’s middle and high schools, used Stark’s work to start the year’s art lessons. It was aimed at helping her students express themselves in a collaborative art project, she said, which when finished, would beautify the buildings’ hallways.  

And there were other lessons.

“Our conversation started with students answering the question: Why woud someone make art?,” Sutton said. Answers at all student levels were similar:

  • To express themselves
  • To process a feeling
  • To record a memory
  • To create beautiful surroundings
  • To communicate ideas

Discussions turned to reasons some make art that is not meant for a museum, such as advertising, architecture, sculpture and murals, as well as the difference between commissioned art, such as a mural, and illegal graffiti, or creating work without permission.

Sophomore Abby Roeters adds a student piece to wall

The Project

The young artists went to work, each allowed to choose colors and patterns as well as their own techniques to create a drip art piece, “each with a chance to help build and install the work where they can see it: in school,” Sutton said.

“It was really cool seeing modern art used as an example; it was different from my style of art, but interesting doing something I hadn’t done before, ” said sophomore Sylvia Freeand. “Ms. Sutton really challenges us to put our creativity to the test.”

The collaboration piece of the project was even better, said Sylvia, who had turned in an intricate black and white design. But seeing the pieces being placed together inspired her and friend Gracie Houtman to create a second drip wave for the mural. “I wanted to see what I could do in colors,” Sylvia said.

“We all did our own, but they fall together like giant puzzle pieces. It is awesome to (have our art) be part of a bigger piece.” 

— sophomore Gracie Houtman

The best part for sophomore Gracie, who said she has always loved making art, was being challenged to do something outside her usual comfort zone while being allowed to choose her own medium. “We were given lots of freedom and could use any color, sharpies, paint, watercolors, create stripes, polka dots, or whatever,” she said. 

Putting the individual pieces on the wall was an interesting part of the project for junior Megan Rode. “No matter how we put them, they look great together,” she said.

Gracie agreed that the pieces together were better than as individual projects. “We all did our own,” she said,”but they fall together like giant puzzle pieces. It is so awesome to be part of a bigger piece.”

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Janice Holst
Janice Holst
Janice Holst was a reporter for SNN covering Kent City and Sparta. She has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and enjoys spending some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts.


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