Category Archives: Art & Projects for Kids

Art that kids love along with project ideas

Recycleart Sculpture Garden

Nathan Nicholls 4 of 12 Recycleart Sculpture Garden
Nathan Nicholls 12 of 12 Recycleart Sculpture Garden
Nathan Nicholls 5 of 12 Recycleart Sculpture Garden

Recycleart Sculpture Garden is located in Waldoboro, Maine. It was created by the late self-taught artist and welder, Nathan Nicholls. Through his art, Nathan encouraged others to think twice before throwing an object away. There is not an object out there that Nathan could not recycle into a beautiful artwork. He welded nails, tires, bike parts, and broken farm equipment into sculptures of owls, flowers, frogs, and cats. Even the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland makes an appearance in his garden.

Nathan was originally from Massachusetts. He moved to Maine after his teenage years. He took on odd jobs, from harvesting blueberries to repairing lawn mowers and motorcycles. The latter job introduced him to the beauty of scraps and discarded objects. Inspired by these objects, Nathan started making sculptures in the 1990s. In 2003, after his mother passed away, he began devoting even more time to his art in order to comfort himself. After many years of creating art, his 5 acres of land is now covered with sculptures.

Nathan passed away in 2014, at the age of 52. His family is working to preserve his artistic legacy. They are in the process of figuring out how to ensure the safety and longevity of his art, especially during the Maine winters. Ideally, it is best to keep an art environment as the artist left it but this leaves the risk of the artwork being destroyed. We hope they come up with a solution that works for them because his sculptures are truly unique and inspiring.

For more information, please visit the Facebook page for the site.

Featured Artist: Kevin Sampson

IMG 4998 600x450 Featured Artist Kevin Sampson
IMG 5001 600x472 Featured Artist Kevin Sampson

We recently returned from a trip to Mystic, Connecticut, where we got to see the work of Kevin Sampson – an incredibly talented self-taught and community based artist living in Newark, New Jersey. His work is currently on display at the Mystic Seaport Museum as part of their artist residency program. 

During the summer of 2018, Sampson stayed on a boat docked near the museum as he and the staff worked on preparing the exhibition. Community members and museum visitors were invited to learn about his work and process.

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Collage Project for Kids

We recently tried out an art project inspired by the work of artists Tony Fitzpatrick and Robert Rauschenberg. We explored the multimedia collage works of Fitzpatrick and Rauschenberg with children ages 7 to 9. The children were encouraged to create collages based on their interpretation of the artwork and add their artistic flair.

About the Artists

Robert Rauschenberg was born in Texas in 1925 and died in Florida in 2008. He worked with several mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, and performance. Rauschenberg is well-known for his “Combines,” which is a term he created to describe his art combining painting and sculpture, made during the 1950s. Rauschenberg incorporated non-traditional materials into his work, such as photographs, newspaper cuttings, and found items that he collected on the streets of New York City.

Tony Fitzpatrick is an artist from Chicago who is well-known for his mixed media drawings, collages, and prints. He uses discarded items and various ephemera in some of his artwork, usually telling a story about Chicago. Fitzpatrick is also a writer (who has created nine books, four plays, and hundreds of essays). He gathers inspiration for his artwork from religious icons of his childhood, comics, poetry, and the city streets. He is also a former tattoo artist, which shows up in the beautiful details of his compositions.

Selected Artworks by the Students

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Simon Rodia’s Watts Tower

By carol m highsmith library of congress catalog Simon Rodia 8217 s Watts TowerWatts tower by ryan dickey flickr Simon Rodia 8217 s Watts Tower

Bradman334 flickr Simon Rodia 8217 s Watts Tower

The Watts Towers, located in California, were designed and constructed by Simon Rodia. The towers consist of seventeen sculptures, including three towers, with the tallest standing at nearly 100 feet. Other noteworthy sculptures include a gazebo and a ship. The most impressive thing about the towers is that Rodia built them entirely by himself from 1921 to 1954.

The towers were constructed using steel rebar armatures, mortar, and wire mesh. No scaffolding or machinery was used to build the towers, although Rodia occasionally used a window washer’s belt and buckle. He decorated the structures in mosaics of broken pottery, glass, shells, and other discarded objects.

Rodia was born as Sabato Rodia in 1879 in Ribottoli, Italy. It is possible that he visited the nearby village of Nola to attend the annual Gigli Festival where he would have encountered the Giglio structures (pictured below). These structures may have served as direct inspiration for his creation later on.

Rodia came to America in the mid-1890s. In 1921, after a couple of unsuccessful relationships and various jobs, Rodia decided to start his artistic journey at 1761-1765 107th Street in the Watts community of Los Angeles. He worked as a construction worker during the day and dedicated all of his spare time to making his art. He decided to create “something big,” and he did exactly that.

In 1955, at the age of 75, Rodia decided to leave his grand project behind to go live in Martinez, California with family. He handed the keys over to a neighbor. In 1959, the Committee for Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts was formed to help preserve the site. After critics of the towers had questioned the safety of the structures, the site went through extensive safety testing and passed. This is a great accomplishment considering that Rodia was mainly self-taught. In 1990, the towers were listed as a National Historic Landmark, and presently the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department manages the park. Visitors can view Rodia’s amazing towers by attending a guided tour. Until then, here is a YouTube video (filmed by PC3DM) of a quadcopter flying over the Watts Towers.


Resources:
Giglio Festival: www.nyfolklore.org/pubs/voic31-1-2/giglio.html
Watts Tower Art Center: www.wattstowers.org
Sublime Spaces and Visionary Worlds

Simon Sparrow

R m1985 49 Simon SparrowSAAM 2016 38 69 1 Simon SparrowSimon Sparrow (1925-2000) was a self-taught artist who was born in West Africa and raised in North Carolina. Sparrow moved to Madison, Wisconsin in the 1970s where he was known as a street preacher. Sparrow’s spiritual beliefs crossed over into his artwork. He believed he was guided by “spirit” to create. 

Sparrow used unusual materials to create his mosaic-like art, including: jewelry, plastic figurines (like Star Wars figures), beads, pine cones, glitter, and other found object materials. He even covered his car in glitter and found objects.

Sparrow passed away in 2000. In 2012, he was the recipient of a Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award. His work has been included in several exhibitions and was featured on a 2009 episode of Antiques Roadshow.


We recently worked on a project for kids based on the art of Simon Sparrow. As you can imagine, the kids were excited about using the recycled materials to create their work. We did this project with 6 to 8 year old children, but it can be taught to a range of ages, and the materials can be varied based on skill level. For example, older kids can use hot glue guns. With the younger kids, we used a non-toxic glue, Aleene’s Clear School Tacky Glue. Also, in order to prevent a disastrous glitter mess but still pay tribute to Sparrow’s love of glitter, we used washable glitter pens.

For a full project plan, please click here.

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Bottle Cap Art

 

Mary ellen Bottle Cap Art

Mary Ellen Croteau, Tsunami,©2014, 5’X8′

Mary ellen 2 Bottle Cap Art

Mary Ellen Croteau, Jia, Uppsala ©2015, 29″x39″ framed

Mary ellen 3 Bottle Cap Art

Mary Ellen Croteau, Endless Columns, detail, ©2010 – 2015


Continuing with the theme of recycled and found object art from previous posts, this week’s featured artist is Mary Ellen Croteau of Chicago. She creates art with bottle caps to help bring awareness to the impact of waste on the environment.

Regarding her piece Tsunami (above), Mary Ellen states on her website:

“Tsunami is made mostly of water bottle caps. I personally think that single-serve plastic bottles are a major curse on our environment, and most especially water bottles. Most of us do not need to have bottled water at hand. Getting people used to spending more money for water than they spend for a gallon of gasoline is devious and disastrous for the future of the planet; letting corporations control our water sources is evil.”

I first came across her work in 2012 at Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago. Her Endless Columns, inspired by the sculptures of Constantin Brancusi, were vibrant towers amongst the greens of the plants and flowers. My 4-year old was very impressed, and from this, we discovered our love of collaborative art making with bottle caps. We will be posting some ideas for bottle cap art projects for kids soon!

To view more of Mary Ellen’s work, please visit her website at maryellencroteau.net.

The Gingerbread Castle of New Jersey

Gingerbread castle 1 of 2 The Gingerbread Castle of New Jersey

Gingerbread castle 2 of 2 The Gingerbread Castle of New Jersey
Gingerbread 2 The Gingerbread Castle of New JerseyThe Gingerbread Castle, originally a fairy tale themed amusement park, is located in Hamburg, New Jersey. The castle was designed in 1928 by the Austrian architect and set designer, Joseph Urban, and commissioned by F.H. Bennett. Bennett purchased the property in 1921 to expand the operations of his company, F.H Biscuits (a dog biscuit manufacturer).  Read more…

Toothpick Arts & Crafts for Kids

To go along with my recent post about toothpick art, I have found some fun projects for kids.  I love the idea of working with nontraditional art supplies that are either lying around the house or affordable to buy. Toothpicks are definitely easy to come across.  Loosely inspired by the work of artists Scott Weaver and Wayne Kusy, here are a few ideas I came across. (The project credit goes to the links under each photo.)

Toothpick cactuses10 Toothpick Arts amp Crafts for Kids

Toothpick cacti from Mod Podge Rocks

Toadstools Toothpick Arts amp Crafts for Kids

Toothpick Toadstools for a fairy garden from Magic Onions

Diy a hedgehog Toothpick Arts amp Crafts for Kids

Cute hedgehog project from Crafts N Coffee

 

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Michelle Stitzlein’s Butterflies & Moths

Moth10web Michelle Stitzlein 8217 s Butterflies amp MothsMoth3web Michelle Stitzlein 8217 s Butterflies amp Moths

Moth6web Michelle Stitzlein 8217 s Butterflies amp MothsMichelle Stitzlein is an artist from Ohio who works with found and recycled objects. She uses unexpected materials to create her artwork, such as bottle caps, garden hoses, shards of china, old piano keys, and license plates. She has a great sense of color and design and knows how to transform the discarded items into intricate details that make her work come alive. Her butterfly and moth series is striking.

Product thumbnail1 Michelle Stitzlein 8217 s Butterflies amp Moths

Michelle is also the author of two art books for children, Bottlecap Little Bottle Cap and Cool Caps! Her website has several great examples of bottle cap art projects.


 

The Gingerbread Castle

Gingerbread castle 1 of 2 The Gingerbread Castle

Gingerbread castle 2 of 2 The Gingerbread Castle
Gingerbread 2 The Gingerbread CastleThe Gingerbread Castle, originally a fairy tale themed amusement park, is located in Hamburg, New Jersey. The castle was designed in 1928 by the Austrian architect and set designer, Joseph Urban, and commissioned by F.H. Bennett. Bennett purchased the property in 1921 to expand the operations of his company, F.H Biscuits (a dog biscuit manufacturer).

Bennett decided to create his fairytale castle after seeing Urban’s set design work at a performance of “Hansel and Gretel” by the Metropolitan Opera. Also, Bennett drew inspiration from memories of reading the Brothers Grimms’ fairytales as a child.

The castle opened in 1930, and it quickly became a popular tourist destination. Unfortunately, by the early 1980s, the castle started to slowly deteriorate. During the past several years, the property has gone through several transformations. At separate points, the property has been used as a haunted house and as a nightclub.

In 2004, Frank Hinger, a New Jersey resident, purchased the property. Hinger started the restoration process with assistance from grants, fundraisers, and supporters of the castle. The property eventually became too expensive for him to fully revitalize, and Hinger decided to sell it. A real estate developer bought the property with intentions to continue the restoration process. So far, not much has been done, and the castle is falling into a state of disrepair. Visitors should note that the property is currently closed and fenced off. The castle can still be seen from the road.