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Early Childhood Center Emulates Visiting Artist's Work

March 6, 2002

[ ECC Exhibit Photo ] DELAWARE, OHIO -- The art currently exhibited in Beeghly Library was not constructed by a notable or visiting artist, but was created by the children at the University's Early Childhood Center (ECC). This exhibit will be displayed through March 17. To celebrate the children's accomplishments and honor their hard work, the ECC is hosting a "Gallery Hop" on Thursday, March 7 and Friday, March 8 from 10 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 2 p.m. Refreshments will be provided.

The children's artwork was inspired by this year's Distinguished Alumna Exhibitor, Chris Adams, who shared her art titled "Tiger Lilies" with the university in October of last year. Her work was also displayed in Beeghly Library's exhibit space. Adams originates hanging and free-standing sculptures using only found objects such as sticks, sheet metal, wire and anything else she feels needs to be incorporated into her pieces. The children emulated this style of art.

The ECC is a division of the university closely connected with the Education and Psychology departments. It is a daycare center for Delaware children three to five years old, directed by Dr. Leslie Mass. Mass said the ECC follows the Reggio Emelia philosophy, which emphasizes education and is often centered around the arts. She said the philosophy intends to allow the children many ways to express themselves and think about things.

Mass said the ECC teachers let the children's interests guide their curriculum. They try to pick up on what the children enjoy and then find a vehicle to use as a teaching device. Mass said they value what the kids do and how they see the world.

Since the children don't usually venture further than the ECC playground, Mass felt it would be good to expand their world by taking them to campus to see Adams' exhibit in October. In going on this field trip, the children were exposed to art and the OWU campus. The children's exhibit experience was followed by group discussions about different kinds of sculptures and then by reading books about them. Mass said they discussed texture, materials used, colors, patterns, and the sculptures' shapes and forms. She said that, at the beginning of the discussions, when a teacher asked what a sculpture was, one child amazed her by answering "a 3D, free form object."

The next step for the children was to scope out the playground for sticks to use in the art they would be creating. The kids worked as a team to wash the sticks and scrape off the bark. Each child made an individual sculpture, and then groups of children constructed larger ones, which are those displayed in Beeghly. They used paints, beads, colored pipe cleaners, and anything else they found and thought would add something unique to their artwork. One child described her sculpture as "full of energy." The teachers always document the children's progress by taking pictures so they can later talk about their experiences, and these are exhibited alongside the kids' sculptures in Beeghly. The entire process for this project took three months.

Mass said she feels the children gained and grew a lot from creating their sculptures. "What comes out of the venture is beautiful artwork, but that is secondary," said Mass. She said, as the teachers had hoped, the children learned how to problem solve, how to work together, how to talk about carrying out a process such as construction, how to execute the process, as well as how to make sticks stand up and what kinds of paints adhere to rough surfaces.

The children's artwork was displayed at the ECC until Mass spoke with OWU Fine Arts Professor Justin Kronewetter about using the Beeghly Library exhibit space. Kronewetter said Mass' timing was extremely lucky because that space is usually reserved year-round for visiting or renowned artists, but the current visiting artist is only using the exhibit space in Edgar Hall. This being their first collaboration, Kronewetter was supportive of the Fine Arts department and the ECC joining forces on the endeavor from the beginning, when Mass contacted him in October to bring the children to see Adams' work. Kronewetter's Gallery Management class designed the exhibit in Beeghly and put the children's artwork up, along with pictures of and quotes from the children. Kronewetter said the beauty of this space is its location, which is ideal because of the flow of student traffic through the library entrance. He said the Werner Gallery in Edgar Hall, on the other hand, is rarely visited by non-art majors since its location is not as convenient.

Kronewetter said working with the ECC is exactly the kind of venture the Fine Arts department would like to do in the future. "We want to reach out to other interest groups," Kronewetter said. He said they have worked with other OWU departments before, such as Women's Studies, and that they currently have plans to act jointly on some projects with the Religion and Humanities departments. Kronewetter said the Fine Arts department is anticipating the opening of the Ross Museum in Humphreys Art Hall in January 2003, which he will be the director of. He said this will allow them to reach out to more groups and organizations, and it will give the department the ample space it has needed to accommodate the art majors and their works.

For more information, contact Leslie Mass, Director of the Early Childhood Center, at 740-368-3935 or the Office of University Communications at 740-368-3335.