Found Object Art Project Beautifies Dennis School

Emily Chudzik, News Editor

Millikin art professor Annette Russo has nearly completed a found object 3D art project for Dennis School that will serve as much more than just decoration. In addition to brightening up the school, this project will help students identify different insects and fish found in Central Illinois.

“The school contacted me about doing a few murals to enliven it a bit, but when I went in to look around, I saw all the walls were subway tile, and tile isn’t conducive to murals that have to stay up in a grade school,” Russo said. She deiced to instead put random objects together into the shape of monarch butterflies, fish and other insects. She also created dragonflies from old fan blades, ladybugs from sanded down wooden bowls and painted butterflies with iridescent paint.

Russo never lets the opportunity for creating artwork pass over her. She said she is always collecting different items from various places for future art projects.

“I look for visually attractive and interesting things and then apply them to the project at hand,” Russo said.

While creating this project, Russo found it to be too fun to do all on her own, so she recruited some help.

“This was kind of like a professional learning experience,” Russo said. “Painting major Jessica Brooks helped me, and she did a beautiful job.” The two worked on the project at the end of last semester and into the summer in the studios.

On Aug. 27, Russo went back to show maintenance how to set it up. “They should be up fairly soon. They’re also getting a new library. Dennis School is going to be beautiful.” said Russo.

This project, however, is far from being over. Russo strives to do more “hands on” projects with the students later on.

“They’ll get to do whatever they want, with no adult guidance, and their art will be incorporated with everything else later on,” Russo said.

She believes that having the students participate in the project will prompt them to ask questions about it.

“There are endangered insects and fish in Illinois . . . There are so many curious things here in our own area, and it’s not good if we don’t know they’re here. Keeping a clean environment is important, and it’s important to be aware of your surrounding area. Asking questions is the best way to stimulate learning,” Russo said. As of now, there is a plan for students to decorate a giant matte flag to hang in two empty rooms.

“Putting the kids’ drawings on the flags can be a fun thing for them to work towards,” Russo said. “Kids love seeing animals and knowing what they are, and they’re excited about knowing them.”

Russo has created other art projects for Dennis School in the past, and recently did a labyrinth for the kids to do at the playground.

“It’s meant for meditative exploration. At the center, there’s a butterfly to decorate with chalk as a reward for getting to the center,” Russo said. She also plans on adding more butterflies to the playground fence once painting is completed.

The found object art project was created as a fun way for students to learn about their area’s environment while adding some beauty to their school. Hopefully, students will be able to bring their love of art and crafts into their land of learning.