Pembroke Elementary creates ‘living art’ to cap off school year
The students and staff of Pembroke Elementary School pose for a living artwork project in the shape of a bat to celebrate the end of the school year and reinforce the school’s lessons about animals, the environment and biology June 1. (Photo by Daniel Dancer)
Posted June 14, 2017
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Pembroke Elementary first-graders Lily Johnson and Emme Krammar demonstrate “skysight,” a concept taught by visiting artist Daniel Dancer consisting of two fingers over the “third eye,” the area in the brain that houses the ability to perceive the world in a new way, Dancer said. (Photo by Deb Jacques)
TROY — The students at Pembroke Elementary School, part of the Birmingham Public Schools district, ended their school year by posing for a photo in the shape of an enormous bat.
The project is called “living art,” and it was done to put a cap on several topics covered during the school year.
“What happens is the artist comes and works with the kids to lay out a grid on the playground,” explained Vickie Muir, Pembroke’s school organizer. “(The next day) he reveals the photo to the students to show them what they all made together.”
The photo was taken June 1 on the school playground. School administrators unveiled the completed photo at an assembly June 2. They said they and the students were pleased with the results.
The idea for having a living art project at Pembroke began when Sarah Smith, an art teacher at the school, discovered photographer Daniel Dancer’s work online. Dancer has been working with schools for 17 years to create artwork of this type and to use the opportunity to teach children about the environment.
“This year we have been piloting a (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) class to incorporate science, math and art all together,” said Smith. “We talked a lot about Michigan animals, which we were able to use to cover topics like ecosystems, grid work and biology.”
The photo also will commemorate the school year, which is swiftly coming to a close.
“Each kid will get a copy of the photo to take home,” said Pembroke Principal Susan Crocker. “We’ll be posting the photos around the building as well.”
The choice of posing in the shape of a bat was a meaningful one, as Michigan-based animals were a key part of many of the school’s classes throughout the year. Dancer also stressed the environmental message that is presented via the image.
“The artist suggested the bat as a good fit for the photo,” said Smith. “He had an assembly (the day before the photo). He taught the kids to look at the world through the lens of an animal or tree to see how people affect nature. He talked about perspective and how you can see more the higher you go. This will be art you can only view from the sky.”
Dancer — who lives in the Portland, Oregon, area — was inspired to go into this area of art years ago.
“I was a photojournalist, and I did a story on a crop artist named Stan Herd, who used his tractor as a brush to create these massive pieces of art visible from the sky,” said Dancer. “They brought kids out to be the colorful beads on an image of an Indian. Years later I met one of those kids, and he said it was one of the only things he remembered from grade school.”
Dancer said he hopes this will encourage the students to look at issues from a different point of view and to see the world as one they must be responsible for.
“Our way of seeing things is obsolete; that’s why we have so many problems today,” he said. “We need to see things from a higher perspective.”
More information on Dancer’s work can be found at www.artforthesky.com.
School administrators said the project helped promote other general lessons they try to instill in their students, lessons they hope carry over beyond the school year.
“The whole project is important for community building, and the kids will get a sense of being part of this cooperative opportunity that worked together to put this together,” said Muir. “This is a lot of fun, but it is also beneficial to our students and the way they look at their futures.”
About the author
Staff Writer Brendan Losinski covers Harper Woods and Northeast Detroit as well as Franklin, Bingham Farms and Beverly Hills; Birmingham Public Schools and Bloomfield Hills Schools. Brendan has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2016 and graduated from Oakland University.
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