Local eighth graders in Secaucus on June 6 took a school day to create larger-than-life works of art at the old Recreation Center. After studying with art educator Doug DePice, who has taught in the school district for 35 years, the students were allowed to choose their own project, materials, and medium.
“We began this last year,” said DePice. “I thought it would be a nice privilege or reward for the eighth graders for celebrating their powers of expression.”
DePice said that he wanted to break free from the 45 minute classroom restriction at the Middle School and allow students to nurture their creative process by placing them in a setting where they had the space and time to make art.
Working on a large scale
“We are just celebrating what it is like to be creative,” said DePice. “To allow them to dream a little, stand back, and reflect.”
“We are just celebrating what it is like to be creative.” – Doug DePice
DePice said the ideas of what to create had to be big. The students had to come up with something that would take up space.
“I told the kids that we were going to be working on a huge scale,” said DePice. He reviewed their ideas before the art marathon day. “The kids had to solve the problem of scale and lightness.”
Throughout the school year Middle School students spend time learning about the art of Henri Matisse, a French artist known for his bold use of color.
“His art was about celebrating life. It was very positive and very joyful,” said DePice. “He used beautiful colors. He filled his paintings with these gorgeous patterns.”
DePice said that some students took their lessons and inspiration from Matisse to inform the colors they would use and the patterns represented in their pieces.
Throughout the year the students also learned about art history, how to draw room interiors, perspective, and how to use brilliant, and bold colors.
Trees, houses, melted crayons and more
The art students took the ability to make art of their choosing rather seriously. Their creativity unleashed, they drew from items they liked, from popular culture to the more abstract.
“We can use our imagination to create amazing stuff,” said John Vettri, 14. His group took random designs and faces and brought it together in one collaborative collage.
Melissa Dehnert, 14, and Chanah Gonzalez, 14, painted a large tree they referred to as the tree of life.
“All the colors and how they all go together in a way,” said Dehnert, describing what she liked about the tree. She said she enjoys art because it provides freedom of self-expression.
Natalia Kukulka, 14, ran with the idea to make a three-dimensional model and was inspired to make a cardboard house like the one from the popular children’s movie, “Up.” She had a team of friends helping her construct the house, which they painted pink. A number of balloons were filled up with helium. The young women had no doubts that the house would float up into the air like it did in the film once the balloons were attached.
Jack Gercich, 14, and Colin Powers, 14, stood next to a tall sculpture of a building that resembled the Empire State Building. The young men were working on the final component of the sculpture, which was a Sasquatch. They were inspired by a television show devoted to finding Big Foot.
“We are making the Sasquatch and we will stick it on to the building,” said Powers.
“Everybody gets to do whatever they choose to do,” said Leslie Guerra. “They get to let their creativity flow.”
She had the idea to melt down crayons through a glue gun and allow the colors to splatter in a pattern on cardboard. Guerra said that one day she will pursue art.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at email@example.com.