If you try to interest young children in humanities, you’ll likely draw blank stares.
But if you talk to them about Tim Burton films like “James and the Giant Peach,” or “Nightmare Before Christmas,” depending on their age, you’re bound to draw comment.
Sculpture is an integral part of what makes Burton’s movies interesting and unique, and that’s a hook used by Anthony Amason, art teacher at Tahlequah High School.
Amason spent Monday and Tuesday talking to a group of youth at Northeastern State University’s Second Century Sculpture camp about the art medium, and how they’ll find it in everyday life, not just museums.
Amason also wanted his campers to understand sculpture doesn’t always involve the use of clay.
“Today, we’re gathering items to make ‘found object’ mobiles,” said Amason. “We’ve been walking around campus, picking up rocks, leaves and other things to use later in the week. I’m trying to show them the benefits of three-dimensional art, and these mobiles are a great illustration.”
On Monday, Amason talked to the students about contemporary artists like Burton and Henry Selick, who has worked with Burton and Pixar to create some of the most memorable – and recognizable – films for young people in the past 20 years.
“I’m sharing with them both Selick and Burton’s use of clay animation in the movies,” said Amason. “They didn’t realize that virtually every movie – not just animated films – use sculpture in some way these days.”
During Tuesday’s camp session, Amason taught the youth about Alexander Calder, an American sculptor best known as the originator of the “mobile,” or kinetic sculpture.
Amason said that from the items the youth gathered on Tuesday, the children will build not only a mobile, modeling Calder’s style, but will also create a “stabile,” or stationary, sculpture from similar found objects.
“So, what I’m trying to do is take them from today’s modern use of sculpture, as in the films and mobiles, and abstract concepts, and take them all the way back to the Greek period,” said Amason. “Later this week, they’ll learn about relief sculpture. I’m going to have them create their own relief sculptures from foil and wood.”
On Monday, participants created free-style sculptures from clay, which were left overnight to dry and harden. Subjects ranged from castles to horses to monkeys to turtles.
“I am having a really good time at camp,” said 9-year-old Aubrey Sumner, as she worked on her turtle sculpture. “You get to make whatever you want; it doesn’t matter what it is.”
Ryly Ziese, 10, sculpted a miniature monkey.
“This is a lot of fun,” said Ryly. “I like it that we get to make a lot of stuff.”
Eleven youth were taking the sculpture class, 10 girls and one boy. Amason said he’d never taught students this young before, but he’s enjoying the class.
“It’s a very different experience,” said Amason.
“Usually, in addition to techniques, I talk to my students about careers in the art field, and encourage them to go out and pursue that. While I talk a little bit about that here, this is more explaining the basics and giving the little ones an appreciation for the art form.”
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