BHES students become living art

  • Monday, January 14, 2013

From 150 feet up in the air, the students, staff, and parent volunteers of Beech Hill Elementary School have created a living work of art, a lighthouse.

From the ground, the sight of hundreds of elementary school children, teachers, principals and staff, and parent volunteers all kneeling low to the ground with their heads bowed might well have resembled an atomic attack drill from the 1950s.
From the bucket of a huge construction crane, some 150 feet in the air above them, they became a living work of art, a 200-foot by 200-foot lighthouse shining their rays of hope and learning out to the rest of the world.
It was all part of Beech Hill Elementary School’s Cultural Arts Week, held Nov. 26-30, the purpose of which was to immerse BHES students in many different cultural experiences that they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to, including storytellers, sweet grass basket makers, and a special guest from out west, according to BHES officials.
Thursday’s event was part of an initiative put together by Daniel Dancer, a conceptual artist from Oregon who works with schools, community groups, even corporations to raise environmental awareness through these living art team building projects.
The whole concept has to do with illustrating and demonstrating not only our relationships with each other, but also our relationship with the sky, the earth, and the ability to see how the big picture fits together, Dancer said.
He also noted that people have to change, but art can help change people.
He especially liked the idea of a lighthouse, not only because it is a continuing theme in the BHES educational experience but because it symbolized illumination.
“It’s a beacon shining a beam of light,” he said. “It shows what we can really do, how we really can make a difference in this world.”
The children not only learned about the environment and the importance of a healthy earth, but they learned how to collaborate, how to see the bigger picture, how to work together for a goal of common good.
Dancer alluded to the number 350 that he works into each project. The number represents the maximum safe level of parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere – a number which is already being exceeded and is increasing every day.
The lighthouse project is an illustrative and experiential example that things are not always what they seem – as evidenced by the difference between looking at more than 1,000 people kneeling on the ground and looking at what they represent from 150 feet in the air -- and that individuals can make a difference, he said.
“I love working with kids,” Dancer said. “Kids are open minded – they are way more open than adults. They don’t have pre-conceived notions. They get it.”
Principal Renee Harris said she was especially pleased with Dancer and with the children’s response to the entire experience.
“I am always looking for something interesting and different for our students and when I saw this online, it just seemed to be the perfect thing for our school,” Principal Renee Harris said. “This is an experience they will always remember.”
The project was paid for through arts grants and through funds from the BHES PTA, she said.

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