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Booker T. Washington Students Prove That Scrap Can Be Beautiful


by Gail Sachson 23 Feb 2009

Guest Blogger Gail Sachson owns Ask Me About Art, offering lectures, tours and program planning. She is Vice-Chair of the Dallas Cultural Affairs Commission and a member of the Public Art Committee. She has been a juror for “Scrap Can Be Beautiful” for several years and curated and coordinated this year’s exhibit. Scrap material can be […]

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Guest Blogger Gail Sachson owns Ask Me About Art, offering lectures, tours and program planning. She is Vice-Chair of the Dallas Cultural Affairs Commission and a member of the Public Art Committee. She has been a juror for “Scrap Can Be Beautiful” for several years and curated and coordinated this year’s exhibit.

Scrap material can be beautiful. And for Patsy Eldridge’s Booker T. Washington High School sculpture students, it can also be free. For 31 years, Dallas based Commercial Metals has invited the talented teenagers to choose what they like from its scrap yards and then return to the classroom to create art. This semester they created 45 works. Among those are Mr. Turtle, Venus Fly Trap, King’s Throne, a five-foot tall Fleur and a seven-foot tall Perched Parrot.

Although all the work deserves applause, there is a competition, aptly named “Scrap Can Be Beautiful,” with the winning works displayed at the annual Commercial Metals stockholders’ meeting. Every year, shareholders look forward to the day and vie for the works, which are for sale. Although the proceeds go to the students, most of the young artists, very proud of their accomplishments, want to keep the work for themselves. (In full disclosure, I admit that I’ve taken advantage of jurying the art and have bought a few pieces before the public rush. It’s a perk.)

The winning works are displayed in Commercial Metals’ Las Colinas headquarters for the year. And for the second year in a row, other sculptures will be displayed in the lobby of Bryan Tower, a few blocks from the Dallas Museum of Art. Who knows – some of these emerging artists may one day have a show there.

Caleb Smith, owner of Bryan Tower, is a collector and major supporter of the arts. He is delighted to showcase the students’ work, for he understands the power of the arts to help young people grow and as an enriching experience for his tenants and visitors.

Will these explorations into metal working, some lasting only six weeks, make sculptors of these Booker T. students, rather than painters, dancers or singers? Booker T. instructor Eldridge (right) says, “There are at least 10 students that I know of in 10 years who have chosen a career in sculpture because of their experiences in this class.” And yet, Eldridge stresses that while the students are learning the techniques of cutting, bending and welding metal, they are not just performing exercises. They are learning to be creative by composing and making maquettes of the realistic and abstract forms they imagine.

They are also learning to integrate disciplines. Sculpting an insect teaches biology. Ninth grader Paul Ramirez had to research how many legs his Angry Bug should have to be accurate. Eleventh grader Jeff Muncy learned anatomy when he created Don’t Forget Me (left), an oversized hand in motion. He was interested in the figure and decided that an open hand, perhaps in a wave, best illustrated man’s quest for immortality. The students are practicing their writing skills, as well. A written report on sculptors who have influenced their work is due every six weeks.

Come see Scrap Can Be Beautiful. Applaud the art. Applaud the young sculptors and their teacher, but perhaps especially, applaud their parents for acknowledging their children’s talent and encouraging a career in the arts.

The Bryan Tower show will be up through March, with a reception on March 5 from 6-8 p.m. featuring the BTW String Quartet, the Entertainers and the Mime Troupe performing.

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  • The hand sculpture is a standout for me. Well done!

  • MT

    Yay! I’m so proud of my daughter’s sculpture!