Shortly before Spring Break of 2016, our Elementary School Art Studio was transformed into a rhythm junk house! Our visiting artist, Don “the Junkman” Knaack worked with the Elementary School students to build a sound sculpture and learn basic rhythmic patterns, repetitions, and techniques. The sounds of wooden dowel rods turned into drumsticks banging against short pieces of hardwood flooring, or plastic PVC pipe, or broken skateboards, or snowboards reverberated through the hallways. By the end of the week, every single person in school could bang out the chants the Junkman taught us: “Take less time, in the shower” and “I can play the con-ga, I can play the con-ga.” Our big finale was a whole school concert where every grade performed for the rest of the school on the newly completed sound sculpture. This was followed by the installation of the sculpture on the playground for all to play on for years to come.
Having a visiting artist is a great way to breathe fresh life into the Arts of our Elementary School. It gives the students a chance to learn from another working artist, one whom they don’t see every day. It brings the student body together to work on collaboration, and helps them realize that they are a part of something bigger than just themselves. Each class built/designed/painted/created something different on the final sound sculpture, and without each kid’s work, the sound sculpture would not have become what it is now.
The Junkman’s concept is a cool one. He wants kids to see that old “junk” can be transformed into something new- something that you can create music with! The months leading up to the residency, we collected lots of junk- old skis and snowboards, used pots and pans, scraps of hardwood flooring, old traffic signs, emptied plastic barrels, etc. The Junkman showed us how we could turn all of that into a sound sculpture. Kids drilled holes, sanded wood, filed down holes in pots and pans, painted wood, attached bolts, and had fun creating the final sound sculpture. While some kids were busy with hands on activities, their classmates were focused on sketching out how they envisioned the final sculpture would look. This residency allowed us to incorporate visual arts, manual arts, and musical arts into each workshop. It was a great way for the kids to see that art doesn’t have to just be a drawing, or a painting, or even a song. It showed them how to take the world around them and transform it into something new. It showed them that art is all around them- and that they can create anything they can think up.