JEFFERSONVILLE — Students from Thomas Jefferson Elementary School are making a lasting mark on the city of Jeffersonville, with public art pieces that will be part of the up-and-coming arts and cultural district.
The 13 fifth-graders were busy Wednesday morning putting the final touches on their part of the "Picasso on a Pole" project — 13 unique designs they individually created that will adorn the refurbished poles around the triangle lot, the space where the Vintage Fire Museum sits.
From start to finish, the kids have seen their work through. It started in fall when Dawn Spyker, Jeffersonville public art administrator, talked with the school's art teacher, Cathy Grininger, about getting the kids involved.
“I thought it was a wonderful opportunity for the kids at our school to participate in making art a fantastic thing in the city of Jeffersonville,” Grininger, known to students as "Ms. G," said.
And the process was a thorough one. After Spyker visited the school to teach the kids about Picasso, the entire class — more than 70 students — came up with their own ideas for what should be on the poles.
They started with a lot of sketching, then working with Grininger, choosing their best ones. They made small prototypes of the art, which went through a formal adjudication process which included the judging of Spyker, Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore and any city employee.
“We had 75 ideas that they had to pick 13 from,” Grininger said. “I'm glad I didn't have to judge, because they were all fantastic.”
Anna Stewart was one of those students. She and the 12 others, along with adult assistance from Jeffersonville leaders, finished painting the 160 individual pieces Wednesday in New Albany at W.M. Kelley, where they had been fabricated and coated based on the students' designs.
“I didn't think I was going to get it and then the last one was called and it was mine,” Stewart said, of the selection process. "My heart was racing, I was kind of shaking because I got so hyper.”
She said that for the design, she had it in her head, just had to make it come out on paper first.
“I chose this one because I like how there's two different shapes to the eye,” she said.
Avani Doogarsingh, whose piece was also selected, was surprised, too. She said she's more of an athlete than an artist, but she was excited to participate in this.
“I was really happy,” she said. “If you were to see the picture they took, my face was priceless. I was in shock.”
Spyker said getting the kids involved brings that much more of a community aspect to the district.
“This is a very special element I think in the grand scheme of the arts and cultural district,” she said, adding that it's functional as well as creative.
Over the summer, the triangle lot will be transformed into a wonder of color and art, Spyker said. Already, awnings and grass sod have been put in place. Next will come the painting — large swaths of color across the lot done in a special paint that resists heat and wear. After that swings and benches, including a 45-seat curved bench created by W.M. Kelley.
When all of that is in, the Picassos will tie it all together.
“We want to make sure everything will be where it needs to be, and this will be kind of the icing on the cake,” Spyker said, adding that she's "beyond excited."
“I think most of the community would agree that it needs it, and it's time to celebrate what we've started and this will be a perfect way to kick off and really have a true celebration.”
Mike Kelley, owner of the fabrication company where the pieces were made and painted, said he's happy to get involved in projects like this. They also fabricated the Running Man sculpture in Jeffersonville, and two of the bike racks, among other projects.
“We've been involved with some of the work in Jeffersonville, which is really taking some nice form and shape,” Kelley said. “I think that they're doing a great job.
“I've always kind of been an artist at heart and when I saw an opportunity to get involved, I thought that would be great.”
The Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission and Jeffersonville Public Art Commission were also huge in helping to make it happen, Spyker said.
For the students, they've seen the projects through for months, getting real experience in the process. Now they can't wait to see their work brought to life.
“That's what's so fantastic about this project,” the art teacher, Grininger, said. “They're able to see it from the very beginning and then when they see these being erected, it's going to be very excited for them.”