Art pole project has students turning everyday objects into art


Scott Turner, KP News

A group of young Key Peninsula Middle School artists gather around an art project with TWAA artist Jessica Smeall. The recycled-art pole will be on display at various Key Peninsula locations. Photo by Scott Turner, KP News

Early this year, a dozen KPMS students met after school and created an art pole from recycled materials as part of a Two Waters Art Alliance (TWAA) art program.

The objective was for each student to create an artwork from found materials that depicted something they like about nature.

The class was taught by TWAA artist Jessica Smeall.

“I call it ‘up-cycling to the extreme,’” Smeall said. “It’s kind of a theory of what we can do with stuff that we see around us that’s headed to the dumpster –– or what we call the ‘waste stream.’ How can I take that object and give it a new life?”

Smeall enjoys teaching the students that “art is all around them,” she said. “They can take anything they see and make it into art.”

The kids made flowers out of junk and turned old business-card magnets into miniature artworks using polymer clay.

As the culmination of the four-week class, each student produced a 3D art piece based on a small square of wallpaper.

“I had a whole table of what most people would consider garbage and told the students we were going to make art out of it,” Smeall said.

According to Smeall, each student had to pick a “nature muse.”

“Some of them picked a bird or trees or water –– but each one had a unique concept of things. So the pole represents all things that keep us sustained on Earth,” she said.

Smeall then took the finished 3D artworks and applied them to a large pole that has been moving from place-to-place on the Key Peninsula since mid-February.

Savannah Wood, 12, was one of the budding artists who participated in the after school art project.

“We learned to make art of things we just find laying around,” she said. “We do a little square that symbolizes water or Earth and we use something like oxygen hoses from the hospital and make it into something artistic. Instead of throwing things away, you can make stuff with it and it helps you realize that you can do a whole lot more with stuff that might just get thrown away. You can make something new out of it. I think the Two Waters program is very cool,” Wood added.

Kady Soucie, 11, created a person enjoying a picnic out in nature. “Then we put it on this pole, which is going to a bunch of schools and other places,” she said with a smile.

The idea, Soucie added, is “so that people can learn how to be kind to nature and not destroy it. We have to have natural resources to live.”

That’s just the kind of understanding Smeall had hoped to instill in the students.

“We talked about stewardship and what that means,” she said.

“I told them to really think about what in nature inspires them. What intrigues them when they’re outside? They actually had to do a bit of homework because they each had to bring their own idea to class,” she said.

Smeall collaborated on the project with Brittany Langdon, a volunteer with the Pierce County Health Department.

“The health department helped us a little bit with supplies,” Smeall recalled, “and together Brittany and I came up with the idea of a moveable sculpture.”

They used a cardboard tube from a roll of butcher paper for the pole. An old soccer ball was attached to the top to represent the Earth, and the base was made from a broken playground piece.

“Every kid made up a little quote to go with their art piece,” Smeall said. “And we teachers also added some famous quotes from people like John Muir and Chief Seattle.”

Getting the pole out into the community for all to see and enjoy is one of the best parts of the project. “The kids are really proud of it,” said Smeall, beaming a smile.


The art pole will be on display at Evergreen Elementary School through April 11 and then moves to the following locations:

April 12 –– Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department

April 26 — Key Pen Parks

May 12 — Minter Creek Elementary School

May 26 — Vaughn Elementary School

June 2 — Key Peninsula Community Services

June 16 — Key Center fire station[/box]