From trash to trea­sure

Lo­cal artist helps stu­dents turn junk into works of art

The Covington News - - SCHOOL BEAT - By Jenny Thompson jthomp­son@cov­news.com

Fourth grade stu­dents at Mansfield El­e­men­tary School busily glued strips of be­jew­eled green plas­tic to untangled coat hang­ers cov­ered in tomato cage in their art class Tues­day morn­ing.

A dirty pool light cover sat atop the cone-shaped mass, which rested upon two flat­tened soda cans.

“It’s awoman,” ex­claimed Molly Tan­ner, fourth grade stu­dent. Mrs. Re­cy­cle to be ex­act. Lo­cal artist and Keep Cov­ing­ton/New­ton Beau­ti­ful ex­ec­u­tive board mem­ber Carol Ve­li­o­tis is act­ing as Mansfield’s artist in res­i­dence this week and next, help­ing stu­dents learn to take items bound for the land­fill and turn them into sculp­tural mas­ter­pieces.

Ve­li­o­ti­sandthe stu­dents brought in bags of aluminum cans, rope, beads and other un­wanted house­hold knick-knacks out of which to cre­ate art.

“Ev­ery sin­gle item was found,” Ve­li­o­tis said. “It’s all ei­ther scrap stuff or it was on the street.”

Nov. 15 is rec­og­nized as Amer­ica Re­cy­cles day and the Mansfield Par­ent Teacher Or­ga­ni­za­tion wanted art ready for that na­tional aware­ness date. Ve­li­o­tis is known lo­cally for her “found art,” which she has been craft­ing for 20 years.

“I must have been out on awalk one day and seen some cool piece of twisted metal and said, ‘Oh that looks like a bar of mu­sic,’” Ve­li­o­tis said, “and then things just started ap­pear­ing.”

At Mansfield she is en­cour­ag­ing the stu­dents to see more than an ob­ject’s orig­i­nal pur­pose as well as to work to­gether to­ward a com­mon goal.

Fourth and fifth grade stu­dents are cre­at­ing child-sized Mr. and Mrs. Re­cy­cle from old pieces of fab­ric, chan­de­lier chains, photo frame stands and worn ac­ces­sories.

“I’ve never done any­thing this big,” said Nathaniel Howard, fourth grade stu­dent. “We al­ways do clay projects or paint­ings but never any­thing with this much stuff.”

Kin­der­gart­ners are fash­ion­ing a pony out of a large piece of Ve­li­o­tis’ pre­vi­ous fur­nace, first graders are dec­o­rat­ing mo­biles with scraps of wood they drew na­ture scenes on, sec­ond graders are con­struct­ing small plas­tic fig­ures for a mo­bile and third grade stu­dents are adorn­ing mo­biles with metal and ce­ram­ics.

Brid­get Nalls, art teacher at Mansfield, said all of the more than 500 stu­dents at the school will have a hand in fash­ion­ing found art. She added Mansfield houses ex­tremely creative stu­dents.

“I’m just sur­prised ev­ery week by what they cre­ate,” Nalls said.

Not only are stu­dents learn­ing how to turn trash to trea­sure but also how much en­ergy re­cy­cling con­serves.

Ve­li­o­tis said she im­pressed stu­dents with a fact from one of her many books about re­cy­cling — re­cy­cling one aluminum can saves enough en­ergy to power an av­er­age size television for three hours.

“Th­ese projects are teach­ing them the re­spon­si­bil­ity of not throw­ing ev­ery thing in the trash,” Ve­li­o­tis said, “and with the drought right now, the more en­ergy we con­serve the bet­ter.”

Ve­li­o­tis said she hopes the sculp­tures the stu­dents build will con­tinue to re­mind them of the im­por­tance of re­cy­cling. She also com­mended Mansfield stu­dents and PTO for their re­cy­cling ef­forts at the school as well as their en­thu­si­asm and artis­tic vi­sion.

“I in­spire the stu­dents and they in­spire me as well with their cre­ativ­ity,” Ve­li­o­tis said. “It’s like a com­mu­nal in­spi­ra­tion so­ci­ety.”

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Sculpt­ing with scraps: Lo­cal artist Carol Ve­li­o­tis, right, works with stu­dents from Sherry Whi­taker’s 5th grade class to con­struct the body of a found art sculp­ture named Mr. Re­cy­cle.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Mak­ing faces: Jake Shel­ton, left, and Kait­lynn John­son work to­gether to craft the head of a found art sculp­ture named Mr. Re­cy­cle with mem­bers of Sherry Whi­taker’s 5th grade class at Mansfield El­e­men­tary School.

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