Second-grader Jayden Tuten prepares his rocket ship for launch. He quickly transforms a paper-towel tube into the ship’s hull and connects wires – made of pipe cleaners – for the big countdown. “The wires energize it up,” Tuten explains.Meanwhile, classmates Tonya Ross and Tavon Johnson are fast at work fastening bottle-cap eyes, pipe-cleaner hair, and can-tab earrings onto their zany, original portraits.
Throughout the afternoon, the second-grade class from ECO Charter School in Camden would use a variety of donated, recycled materials – and a whole lot of imagination – to create a vast array of artwork, as they participated recently in the Museum Education Program at Rutgers–Camden.
Led by the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts, the 90-minute program provides lively, interactive tours of Stedman Gallery exhibitions, followed by art activities designed to reinforce concepts covered in the gallery. Teachers then receive resource packets to aid in integrating the exhibition concepts into the classroom curriculum.In addition to creating their own recycled masterpieces, the ECO Charter School students explored the “(re)collecting, (re)constructing” exhibit in the gallery, observing how sculptors Scott Pellnat and Allen Topolski have transformed found objects and materials in magically illusory ways.
“This style of art is something completely different than what they are used to,” says Jessica Subramanya, the art and environmental education teacher at ECO Charter School. “Our school is environmentally-based, so it’s also a great experience for them to see recycled art. We will follow this up with a recycled art project at our school.”
Throughout the fall, more than 425 students from Camden schools – including Holy Name School, Rafael Cordero Molina Elementary School, and Cooper’s Poynt School – will be introduced to the beauty and creativity of reclaimed art. But rest assure, there is no shortage of recycled objects, as Rutgers–Camden personnel throughout the campus have donated countless materials of all shapes and sizes.“I hope these students gain an understanding that anything can be art, including ‘trash,’ if they use their imaginations,” says Miranda Powell, program assistant for arts education and community arts for the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts. “I hope they also learn that using recycled materials in art can sometimes force us to be more creative than if we were to have anything at our disposal.”
Powell notes that the Museum Education Program is a wonderful opportunity for students of all grade levels to learn how to look at, analyze, and talk about artwork and objects in a museum. “The experience allows students to think creatively, to make connections from their studies and personal experiences to the work that they are seeing, and to appreciate the cultural significance of the art and art-making,” says Powell, who adds, “It also trains students in proper museum and gallery etiquette, preparing them for future visits to the Stedman Gallery and other local institutions.”
The next program will be related to two concurrent, free exhibitions, running from Nov. 11 to Dec. 20 in the Stedman Gallery: “Poe in Popular Culture: Selections from The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe, Richmond, Va.,” and “Dark Eye Glances: Romantic Impulse in Landscape.” “Dark Eye Glances” features contemporary forms of landscape, with elements of romanticism, mystery, and imagination. “Poe in Popular Culture” features a variety of fascinating artifacts from Poe’s life and works, including a portrait once owned by Elmira Royster Shelton, Poe’s longtime love interest who was engaged to him at the time of his death. Other items include illustrations, movie posters, etchings, publicity stills, and comic strips.
For further information regarding the Museum Education Program at Rutgers–Camden, visit rcca.camden.rutgers.edu/arts-museum.php.