On Wednesday, July 22, kids of all ages are invited to participate in a collaborative art project at the California State Fair. Those who visit the Shriners Hospitals for Children booth in the youth arts building will help create a giant collage that is an artistic representation of the fez, the distinctive hat worn by the Shriners, the fraternal organization responsible for Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Art-Spress Yourself in a Feztastic Way themes the interactive activity that was inspired by an art project led by teachers in the Shriners Hospital school, an on-site public school that serves patients receiving care at the hospital in Sacramento.
Inspired by the men in the red fezzes who volunteer at the hospital and drive patients to and from appointments, teachers in the hospital school developed an art lesson to honor the Shriners this spring. They decided on a fez still life. Teacher Barbara Brooks had the children complete two paintings using acrylic paint. One had to be realistic. The other could be abstract with any color, design or decoration the children imagined.
One fez is orange. Another has thick stripes of color. Pink hearts adorn one painting. The children’s paintings now adorn the wall outside a room on the fifth floor reserved for Shrine volunteers. They are visible to families visiting the clinic, providing an uplifting visual and colorful salute to the Shriners.
The children “talked about how they were thankful this hospital is here,” says Nellie Arias, an instructional aide.
The one-room school educates children from kindergarten through 12th grade. It is a joint project of the Sacramento City Unified School District and Shriners Hospitals for Children – Northern California. The children work on individual lesson plans. But on Thursdays, they come together for a joint art lesson. The varied art lessons could include clay, sculpting wire, watercolors or mixed media, for example. They focus on an artist such as Vincent Van Gogh or an art genre like cubism. Sometimes the teachers weave in subjects such as history, science and literature.
“The abstract, the pop art, contemporary art, we want to explore it all because we don’t know what their true potential is,” teacher Rachelle Dixson says. “Exploring a little bit of everything will help with their individuality and help them master skills that they’re interested in or develop new skills.”
Despite some of the children’s physical limitations, the teachers adapt lessons so that everyone can fully participate. That could mean taping paper to the table, securing an oil pastel to a child’s hand with Coban, or having children without the use of their arms use a mouth stick, for example. Writing with a pencil might be difficult and discouraging, but almost anyone can make big strokes with a paintbrush or chalk pastels, says school coordinator Margaret Kugler.
“They can see themselves as successful and just like all the other kids, (and do things) they hadn’t thought about before,” she says. “There’s no right and wrong answer, so no matter what they do is a success. It really does elevate their self-worth.”
As those visiting the Shriners Hospital booth at the State Fair might say, “that’s feztastic!”