Every successful grant begins with an idea such as the one Yellow Medicine East Arts Instructor Tamara Isfeld had this year when she took a kinetic art workshop.
Yellow Medicine County was recently awarded a grant for $4,000 for such an arts project.
Southwest Minnesota Arts Council awarded grants totaling $103,757 in 2017 to area schools and arts organizations. Arts in the Schools grants provide funds for artist residencies in schools or arts-related field trips that include educator training and community involvement.
Yellow Medicine East in Granite Falls was awarded $4,000 for its project, “Connecting Swirls of Movement.” The project is to create a large-scale mobile to hang in the school cafeteria.
The students will create a metal framework to support mobile shapes and then work with balance, color, shape, and movement in creating the mobile with Chris Lutter Gardella, who is the artist in residence. The project is expected to take about two weeks. Gardella will spend two days to get students started and return for two days after a week to help students finish and install it.
“I applied for a SMAC grant in the past, too,” she said. “SMAC is a great supporter of arts and the Perpich Center (for Arts Education) taught us it’s not that difficult to partner with instructors in other classrooms.”
When she started looking at the materials needed, such as lightweight aluminum bars, she set about to get the cooperation of the metal fabrication instructor at YME, Darrel Refsland. This project will be for next semester. Some of Isfeld’s students will be new. Others will have already been working on the colorful murals that will be hung on the cafeteria walls.
“I’ll have a new group of welding students then, too,” Refsland said. “I’m always game for stuff like this. It’s good hands-on, real-world stuff, not just a beaded (strip of metal). The kids will take ownership and pride in it.
“It’s something that will hang in the cafeteria for five to six years,” he said. “They can come back and say, ‘Hey, this is something we did when we were in school!'” Refsland said he and Isfeld have worked together before and get along well.
“It takes us both a little out of our comfort zones,” Isfeld said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a student or a teacher, you can still be learning. It’s all about getting people out of their comfort zones in the art room.”
Isfeld said she wasn’t able to get her own art instructor to come, but Gardella agreed to come. She said he would likely make three trips: One to get the class started, one for check up and one at the end to install the finished pieces. “
We’ll draw shapes to scale for Darrel’s class,” Isfeld said. “His students will cut out the shapes. The students will cover the metal with wind sock-like material and paint the material with non-toxic paints or markers.”
The integration of age levels would be recognized. Isfeld’s classes include first, second and sixth and up. Refsland’s students were all high school-age.
“The lightweight aluminum rods will be cut out,” she said. “The pieces will reflect light and move with the air currents created by student movement through the cafeteria.”
However, Isfeld said, she didn’t want to get too far ahead on designing it.
“I want the kids to come up with their own design,” she said. “I’d like it to be one big project with lots of little arms and pieces, unless (Lutter Gardella) changes my mind.”
Refsland agreed, saying, “Creativity is as much a part of their brains as memorizing events dates and math formulas.”
“They will learn shape, design and motion,” Isfeld said. “Some will do large mobile pieces, some will go round or 3-dimensional and the younger ones will likely stick with two-dimensional. Some will apply fabric, others won’t. It’s their choice.”
Not only would the students learn how to work with metal, but also learn some physics, too.
What gave Isfeld the idea for the project was when she connected the metal fabrication she did for a table top mobile to an addition to the murals her classes were already making to enhance the appeal of the YME cafeteria.
“For the last few years, the Perpich Center has had workshops where the attendees work with artists,” Isfeld said. “I took one with an artist who works with mobiles, and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to hang something like this from the ceiling in the cafeteria?.'”
The YME cafeteria has no windows, she said, but the reflective surfaces of the metal mobile pieces would scatter light.
In order to get the materials she needed and pay an experienced artist to do a residency at YME, she and Isfeld applied for a grant.
Isfeld had to gather all the information required to obtain a grant: The cost of materials and fellowship fee.
“Darrel will help with the shopping because he knows where to find materials economically,” Isfeld said, “cheaper than I can find in a catalog.”
Even the custodians want in on the project. When Isfeld asked for permission to paint a navy blue strip 5 feet high across the walls in the cafeteria on which to display the murals, the custodians suggested painting the entire room.
The murals are 4 feet by 4 feet or 4 feet by 8 feet.
“From the doors down, it will be brownish tan with the navy blue strip and a soft skyscape with trees against the sky,” Isfeld said. “It will not be overwhelming with color. I don’t want the background to take away from the murals or the mobiles hanging down.”
And, it will tie in with the American Indian books she had introduced her mural project with and will use again to introduce the metal fabrication project.
On a side note, Isfeld said, American Indian stories are supposed to be told only when there is snow on the ground. “There was only a trace when we did,” she said, “but, we said, ‘OK, we can read them today.'” The hope is there will be snow by the time the second semester’s classes get going and the mobiles are introduced.