High school can be scary. Higher expectations, social pressures, and worries about the future produce stress and anxiety. It’s not uncommon for students to feel uneasy and vulnerable during this transition to young adulthood. Though guidance counselors and caring teachers are in place to provide support, sometimes students simply need an artistic outlet to express their fears creatively.
SAIL high school art teacher Sheri Nilles developed a project that challenges students to build their own monsters. She said “it gives them an opportunity to explore what they think is scary in this bigger way. They can let loose and have fun and start to feel out three-dimensional design. Whatever they can dream up, we try to make it happen.”
Eleventh-grader Carter Magar and two other classmates built a pair of alien glitter monsters. Carter felt that “everybody should make a monster. A lot of people don’t allow their creative side to show. They say I’m not good at this but it’s a monster, no one has a reference for it. You just kind of go for it.”
Because the only limitation for the monster project is the students’ imaginations, there are no right or wrong answers. Though Nilles did set specific criteria for assessment, she emphasized, “it’s about the process and about exploring the fun side of art. That gets lost a lot as people get older and as they study art, the fun gets taken out of it.”
Teresa Fondo and Leah Simmons had no shortage of fun while collaborating on their monster. Both 10th-graders, they chose to work together because “We bounce ideas off each other well,” said Teresa. Leah added, “Even if we didn’t come to an agreement, we still compromised and all our ideas came to life.”
Theirmermaidmonster,namedKla’risha, exudes a maniacal glamour. Students were required to develop a descriptive backstory for their monsters and Teresa explained, “we were thinking about her being in Wakulla Springs and what would happen if there was pollution in the water. How would it affect her? It might make her evil.” Because of the water’s imagined contamination, Kla’risha has developed murderous tendencies and a disturbing habit of taking selfies with her victims. “It’s environmental and a social commentary. Cute but killer, it’s a deceiving thing,” said Leah. “Just because she’s beautiful doesn’t mean she’s not capable of doing bad things,” added Teresa.
In addition to exploring larger themes, students had the opportunity to experiment with a variety of sculpture techniques and materials. Kla’risha was built with an armature of chicken wire, poles, and broken gardening equipment. “We use these really long strips of packaging paper. I stripped them down to make a wig. Then we spray painted it and that’s the day we learned that spray paint melts Styrofoam,” said Teresa. “But it looks really cool and it works with the toxic theme. It was a happy accident.”
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