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Horse Play Project the Centerpiece of Harrison’s Arts Showcase

Harrison Elementary’s end-of-year arts showcase culminated with the sculpture named “Downtown Lex” that students designed for Horse Play 2022, which is part of the LexArts citywide Horse Mania public art initiative. The Kloiber Foundation provided statues for all Lexington-area schools to decorate this spring, and Harrison teacher Jeffery Hale took the opportunity to develop a six-week visual arts unit around the equine project.

The showcase event, which included a light supper, drew some four dozen families eager to celebrate their children’s efforts. Heading toward the cafeteria, they first passed by fifth graders’ poster displays on entertainment superstars like Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Drake, and Luke Bryan. “I wanted to integrate literacy and have them do research in getting ready for middle school,” said music teacher Clinton White. Later, the evening also closed with the spotlight on music arts as different age groups presented such numbers as “Sing for Peace” and the Bruno Mars hit “Count on Me.” Fourth graders, playing ukulele, sang Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”

Every student at Harrison contributed to “Downtown Lex,” using decoupage techniques to arrange nearly 200 colorful blocks of tissue paper all over the statue. They drew inspiration from Google Earth’s aerial perspective of our downtown community, with the blocks symbolizing the buildings and the heavy black lines illustrating the major streets. “It’s also based on the artwork of Piet Mondrian, which incorporates collage, geometric shape, and primary colors,” Hale explained, referencing the Dutch pioneer of abstract painting. One vertical red rectangle in particular, the heart of the foal, represents their school.

In preparation, the students watched a LexArts video -- Horse Mania – Painted Horses & Ponies – to see a variety of statues from previous years. Hale also introduced the concept of public art and encouraged the children to interpret the form of their foal. With the statue in mind, students also created individual 2-D watercolor artwork and colorful tissue collages. Along the way, Hale noticed a trend toward dividing the horse into quadrants somewhat like roads crisscrossing the downtown area. That led to a discussion of maps and exploration of the school’s location via satellite images. Technology was a useful tool throughout the process, as Hale taught the youngsters how to use the Google Earth app and sent regular updates to their families through Harrison’s ClassDojo platform. “This project was beyond special for building the artistic community of Harrison Elementary,” Hale said.

Acting Principal Melissa McDaniel praised Hale’s leadership. “He has embraced Horse Mania and ensured every student had the opportunity to participate in the creation of our public work of art,” she said. “Our school community is blessed to have artistically talented students and staff.”

The Horse Mania and Horse Play entries will be on display across Lexington from mid-June to November before the auction, and organizers hope whoever buys the student statues will donate them. “Our goal is to make sure all of these foals end up back in the schools where they were created,” said Ame Sweetall, president and CEO of LexArts.

Posted May 20, 2022