Magic Animals roam the Rouge this week
If you should happen to have an opportunity to visit the Rouge Gallery this week, you will be greeted by the charming and colourful Animaux Magiques, or Magic Animals, painstakingly created over many months by students at Rossland’s Francophone school, L’École des Septs-Sommets. The project was lovingly executed by the grades 4, 5, and 6 split class and their art teacher, local painter Martine Bedard. The display includes six large papier maché “magical animals” constructed from chicken wire. Roaming Rouge right now are a giraffe, a hippotaur (a cross between a hippo and a minotaur), an elephant, a camel with three humps, a donkey and bull cross, AKA a “bonkey”, and a large rabbit sporting a pair of cool shades.
The idea for the Magic Animals was conceived at the beginning of the year, Bedard said in a phone interview. “The kids were really keen on doing papier maché, and animals were a kind of fun, open-ended theme that would give the kids a change to be creative. It was a good way to direct their creative energy.”
Starting at the end of February, a total of 17 kids worked on the project in teams of three or four, and during the last month the students spent two or three lunch hours per week working on their animals in order to get them completed on schedule. Bedard did the elephant herself so that she could create an example for the children because she had never done papier maché before.
“In hindsight it was very ambitious,” she laughed. The animals were built from the aforementioned chicken wire, stuffed with paper, then covered with papier maché, and then they were primed, painted, and varnished.
Bedard believes the project provided a bunch of opportunities for the students that went beyond artistic value alone.
“What was great about it was the kids collaborated. As an art teacher, I find that kids can get quite discouraged with their art projects, where it’s long and sustained… But as a team, I find that it was a really good way for them to participate and have a positive attitude about it. And it’s a good skill. Now they’ve all done a full-blown papier maché sculpture, they would know how to create it again, because they really built it from nothing.”
Additionally, the students got the chance to experience what having an art opening is like, as they held one at Rouge on Friday night. “There as a nice feeling there. It was great for the kids to be celebrating their creations.” Bedard said that about 50 people attended the opening and there was great community response.
The Magic Animals had some financial help in order to bring them to life. The materials were quite costly, and more expensive items included not only the chicken wire but also paint and varnish. Bedard applied for and received a $300 grant from the BC Arts Council to cover the cost of materials. There was an Eco component to the grant as well. “We used newspaper, and a couple of found objects. The giraffe has rubber boots, and the rabbit has sunglasses.” Bedard also received a $60 donation from the local branch of the Nelson & District Credit Union, which also went towards supplies.
Bedard herself is mostly a painter but she says, “I haven’t done a lot of sculpture. [This project] sure made me want to do more, hopefully. It’s a pretty neat medium.” She also believes that the students were inspired by the Magic Animals to do more art projects. “It made the students realize that, wow, they can do that.”
The Magic Animals proudly preen for the public at the Rouge Gallery until this Saturday, April 23. I spoke to them myself, and they really like visitors!