PROJECT EVERGREEN: KEARNEY MIDDLE SCHOOL

Artfully Rescuing Felt One Student at a Time

It all started at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival back in July. The group of student art buyers from Kearney Middle School in Commerce City, CO came into our booth with their Art Teacher Brandon Finamore and $500 provided by the JANUS HENDERSON Student Art Buying Project.

They asked us if they could commission a Bobcat which is their school mascot. We said we would be happy to do that especially since a Bobcat had been on our wishlist of pieces to create and we would donate the difference in the cost of the piece. The students said they chose our art because it was beautiful to look at and to touch. They loved that we rescued the Felt from Colorado’s own GREELEY HAT WORKS and turned what would have been thrown away into art so amazing.

As the project progressed we started talking about how fun it would be to do a project with the kids when we delivered their commission later in the fall. One thing led to the next and we chose to spend the entire day working with around 200 students creating their own versions of our little Felted Firs and PROJECT EVERGREEN was born.

We presented Mr. Finamore and the first class with their commissioned portrait. Then we got to work with the first of 6 classes. After a brief introduction of who we, what SCULPTURALFELT is and how we got started making found-object sculpture when our son brought home a family project in 2nd grade and that turkey we all made turned into our careers.

Then the kids got to work using the materials we provided: rescued hat-makers felt, log bases with shish-ka-bob trunks, rolls of raffle tickets, aluminum foil, book pages, and t-shirt material. They only had 30 minutes so they had to work fast.

Kids of all abilities let their imaginations fly and what a beautifully diverse forest they created!

They created trees that were fat,

trees that were skinny.

Trees that were minimalist and trees full of plenty.

Round ones, tall ones, shiny ones and quirky ones.

Even some joined together with tickets,

each topped with a fish in it.

​​​​

It was an action-packed, whirlwind of a day working with some of the greatest kids we’ve ever met. As you can see by the pictures, the large majority of these kids are of Hispanic descent and many are new to our country. Not being from Denver, we had no idea what the school was going to be like or what kind of neighborhood it was in. All we knew was that they have a fantastic role model in Mr. Finamore, he cares for them deeply and they are passionate about art. It ends up Kearney is a Title 1 school that has had its funding cut year after year and was in danger of being closed down due to unfairly weighted testing based on the high percentage of English Language Learners and poverty level families.

Shaina Belton, Director of Education with Cherry Arts also came to spend some time with us Monday morning. She was able to give the kids another big surprise, the Cherry Creek Mobile Art Gallery will be coming to their school for two weeks! It is filled with over 30 pieces of art and a select group of students will be taught how to be docents for the rest of the school to tour the mobile gallery.

I wish everyone could spend a day like the one we were blessed with Monday. The only preconceived thought we had was from our own middle school years; it’s tough. We always told our kids Middle school was like treading water...you just want to keep your head above water and not drown. The Kearney Bobcats were a breath of fresh air! They are smart, creative, and funny. They are eager to learn, respectful and polite. They are happy to be at school and don’t take any of it for granted. We just wanted to do this little project for the kids to pay it forward but we got so much more back than we gave!

So, thank you Cherry Arts for choosing us to be part of The Cherry Creek Arts Festival. Thank you Janus Henderson for your generous Student Art Buying donation and thank you Kearney Middle School, Mr. Finamore and all of the art students and staff for filling our hearts with hope and joy and art.

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