Kids as Curators Opens at the Erie Art Museum

January 26, 2018 – March 18, 2018
Katzwinkel and Hagan Family Galleries

In its 14th year, Kids as Curators offers the fresh perspective of teens and pre-teens. Building on middle school students’ fascination with objects, the Museum challenges local youth to unleash their creativity to design and curate exhibits of their own collections. This year the Museum collaborated with Rice Avenue Middle School, Wattsburg Area Middle School and Erie Rise Leadership Academy Charter School. 
Students toured the Museum in the fall to explore and analyze exhibits. An artist-in-residence was placed at each partner school to work with teachers and students to engage in every aspect of the curatorial process — amass collections, curate those collections and design an exhibit. Each school utilized an aspect of their curriculum to build bridges between technology and fashion, history and sculpture, environmental science and poetry. The exhibits were first installed in the schools, allowing the students to give tours to their peers. 

Rice Avenue Middle School

Media artist Jude Shingle worked with the eighth grade to explore the importance of diversity in science and personal style. They present a collection of shoes: virtual samples of items they wear every day and actual shoes borrowed from school faculty. Language Arts students created fictitious stories and assigned three hashtags to each shoe. The hashtags represent the contemporary folk taxonomy of social media. Students further explored taxonomy by creating inkblot creatures and classifying them according to a biological hierarchy. Finally, their exhibit includes shoe box installations that reflect individual student’s collections and hobbies and demonstrate the importance of diversity in personal choices.

Wattsburg Area Middle School 

Sixth graders in Wattsburg studied Native Americans in their social studies class. The students worked with sculptor Kathe Umlauf and drew inspiration from totem poles of the Pacific Northwest. Every student first created a maquette to consider form and materials on a small scale. Students considered what animals best symbolized their own personalities and every sixth grader used found objects to create an animal. Over 100 of these animals are stacked on enormous sculptural columns, each representing a different clan. The columns correspond to typical totems such as bobcats and wolves, but also include unicorns. One group of students whose totems did not fit into a clan created their own column representing a range of creatures. Students took great delight in researching animal qualities and using materials from their own natural environment, a 21st century take on Native American practice. 

Erie Rise Leadership Academy Charter School 

Students in fifth through eighth grades at this inner-city school worked with environmental artist Annie Schmitt. Their theme revolves around the power and flexibility of paper. Students recycled pages of discarded books by using illustrations to black out text leaving only a few choice words to form original poetry. They created paper sculptures, a “stained glass” window of junk mail envelopes, and a paper-making demonstration. Some of the papermaking sessions included personal inventories. Students used scrap paper to write down something they wanted to release from their life. They then tore up the paper, combined the scraps, blended it with water, screened the sheets, and let them dry. Finally, they wrote what things they wanted more of in life on their newly created paper that now hangs in the window. 

The exhibit is open in the Katzwinkel and Hagen Family Galleries from January 26 through March 18, 2018. A free public opening reception will be held during Gallery Night, Friday, March 9, 2018, from 7–10pm; families with children of all ages are welcome. Kids as Curators is one of the Museum’s most popular family attractions.

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