CommuniTree by Andrea Skyberg and the Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts

CommuniTree available June 5th, 2013!CommuniTree-Skyberg-Cover-053013-Med

Check out the Youtube trailer/making of CommuniTree

About CommuniTree:

On the surface we look like individuals, but hidden below, like the roots of the great Quaking Aspen trees, we’re connected. In the same way a family has a family tree, our community has a CommuniTree. On a family tree, each branch represents a person. On a CommuniTree, individuals are connected by our roots of shared values and collective ideas. Our connections take form in our collaborations, the music we make together, our trust in one another, and in the seeds of love that we continuously plant.

About the project:

CommuniTree was created in collaboration with 686 students (K4 – 8th grade) from Dover School and Tippecano School for the Arts & Humanities, during a time when these two separate schools were merging together to form Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts. In an effort to take an active role in building their new school, students worked with artist and author Andrea Skyberg to develop a children’s picture book about community.

Ragadoodles: : Masking tape dolls

Students created Ragadoodles (small dolls) out of masking tape and a other materials and created a small book that accompanies their Ragadoodle. These books used inventive words and figurative language to tell a short story about the Ragadoodle. Together they become great little souvenirs that mimic the life-size characters & my book, Snickeyfritz.

Healing Machine: Metal etchings & assemblage sculpture

School: Whitman School
Educating Artist: Andrea Skyberg

Inspired by outsider artist, Emery Blagdon, the 1-6th graders created a Healing Machine out of aluminum, found metal, wire and beads.  Over the course of this project, students gained a greater understanding of helpful and healing emotions such as love, compassion, happiness and creativity.  Each student made a wish that would help manifest a more positive world. With that wish in mind, each child worked to create an image that could represent the essence of her/his wish.  That image was etched into aluminum with an added patina.  The students then attached wire and glass beads to each charm. Found metal was painted and altered and attached to the armature, along with tinfoil and strands of beads.  It is our hope that the Healing Machine will radiate positive energy, love and beauty.  

Who was Emery Blagdon?
Emery Blagdon was an self-taught artist, or what people in the art world would refer to as an outsider artist or visionary artist.  He lived on a farm in rural Nebraska and started creating Healing Machines in 1956.  He used his barn to construct large assemblages out of old wire, metal, tinfoil, ribbon, beads, magnets, and other found items. He believed that his Healing Machines generated an electromagnetic energy that could alleviate pain and prevent disease. After Blagdon died in 1986, the environment was acquired by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Diversity Tree: Mixed media sculpture

School: Whitman
Educating Artist: Andrea Skyberg

1st – 6th grade students created an 8-foot tall Diversity Tree by covering a cardboard tube is paper cut profile portraits in the style of the Wisconsin Artist, Mary Nohl. With the leftover  scraps of paper they wrapped wooded dowels to cover the branches of the tree.
Each student created a self portrait in the shape of a leaf out of paper pulp and paint. They also worked on a writing exercise, which allowed them to share aspects of their cultural background. Their final writing was decorated and adhered to the back of each leaf. Additional painted leaves and decorative elements, such as beaded strings and mosaic panels, were created and added to the tree to embellish it.

Currently the Diversity Tree is being exhibited in the lobby of the Milwaukee Public Schools Central Office

Housing a Spirit: Face Jugs

School: Franklin High School
Educating Artist: Andrea Skyberg
Cooperating Teacher: Stacey Mercier

Believing that humans have a spirit separate from their human body is a notion that has been around for as long as human beings started honoring and burying their dead. The questions “Is their life after death?” and “What happens when our bodies no longer work?” are universal questions which have been approached in different ways throughout time. The face jugs created in America since the 18th century have provided an exploration for some people as they struggle with these loaded questions and develop their personal beliefs. For the slaves that created some of these vessels and placed them on graves it may have been a way of representing the individual that died, or as some believe, it may have served as a scary image in which to deter evil spirits from taking the spirit of their friend of family member. For others, the jugs have served as a grave marker during a time when slaves were not allowed to mark graves with traditional headstones. There is no way to understand completely why these jugs were created, but their existence gives their makers some life after death. Through this project students will investigate their own spirit and mortality and consider how their creation of a face jug will represent their interpretations and beliefs.

It’s Written All Over My Face: Paper pulp relief sculptures

School: Cooper School 1st Grade Students
Educating Artist: Andrea Skyberg
Cooperating Teachers: Roxanne Reszel & Katherine MacKenzie
Funded by: Arts@Large

Can your face tell a story without you even saying a word?
If you could taste emotions, what would they taste like? How would they sound, look, smell and feel?

In this three week art and writing residency students explored how facial expressions could tell a story about what they are feeling and they also worked to understand and recognize their own feelings by associating them with their five senses. To showcase their understanding of one emotion students created a six-line poem describing what their emotion tastes like, smells like, looks like, sounds like and feels like.
While creating their relief sculptures students learned about facial feature placement and proportion to create portraits out of paper pulp. Their painted portraits were attached to a colored canvas board which contains a few lines from their poem.

So what does Happy sound like and what does Frustrated look like? What do you think is the color of Scared and what smells like Surprised? Take a look at each creative portrait and see what is written all over their face!

Wings & Roots: The Unity of Spirit in the Arctic

Project: Milwaukee County Zoo Fantastic Forest of Holiday Trees
School: Cooper Elementary Student Council
Educating Artist: Andrea Skyberg
Cooperating Teachers: Dawn Bigalk, Chris McCoy, Jackie Pollman
Funded by: Arts@Large

Inspired by the artwork of the Tlingit, Kwakiutl and Yup’ik tribes in the Pacific Northwest Coast, students created ornaments that incorporated land, air and sea creatures from the Arctic. Throughout these different cultures, animals play a large role in the mythology and the underlying elements in the day-to-day lives of the people.  There is a strong notion of unity between human and animal.

The felted animal pockets are modeled after the Inuit finger masks, used by female dancers to help attract the attention of the spirits.  Inside the felted ornament is an individual message of hope for the world, written by the student.
The etched tin and bead ornaments were modeled after the Tlingit graphic designs of animals.  The feathers, made of paper, tape and beads, were created with a message for the people of the world to model their behavior after a positive aspect from one of the arctic animals. The paper pulp ornaments depict the sea creatures of the arctic, such as the seal, whale and walrus.  The tree topper and tree skirt reference a wish for each person to be endued with wings for courage to fly away from the nest and try new things, while at the same time remain grounded with depth and fortitude by their roots.