Second-grade students in Ms. Cressey’s and Ms. Warren’s classes had plenty to smile about last week when they put the finishing touches on a large-scale outdoor project, which was the brainchild of class parent and artist Dana Shields. The spectacular project transformed a grove of on-campus trees into a vibrant, polka dot–covered work of art in the style of contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama, the Polka Dot Princess. Forty yards of painted fabric adorn the tree trunks and scores of painted lanterns hang from branches, the diligent handiwork of the students.
“They didn’t even seem to get bored painting white dots over and over again. Maybe it was because they liked being a part of something big and cool—sort of like a flash mob. It was messy and fun.”
Before the hands-on fun, Dana taught the kids about Kusama, Cristo, and environmental art. “I wanted to expose the kids to more female artists and three-dimensional artists. I also wanted to give the kids an opportunity to work collaboratively. Yayoi Kusama, a famous female contemporary environmental artist from Japan, seemed like the perfect artist for us to learn about.”
Kids and teachers weren’t the only ones to get in on the act. Parents, grandparents, and caregivers also helped with painting, tree-wrapping, and lantern-hanging.
Says Dana: “I’m hoping that the kids will get excited about seeing and creating more environmental and installation art. It is so fun! I’m also hoping the Homage to Kusama project will inspire Laurel families to create more large-scale collaborations every year. I’d be proud if it did.”
Tree photo by Laura Hamilton. Painting photo by Dana Shields