All-school art project is for the birds

You may have heard the expres­sion “art for the mass­es,” but Tawanka Elementary School in Langhorne cre­at­ed a work of art that includ­ed them in a sin­gle “liv­ing paint­ing” in June. Daniel Dancer, a con­cep­tu­al artist and edu­ca­tor from Oregon, vis­it­ed the school for three days on June 3–5. Dancer is the own­er of Art For the Sky, and spe­cial­izes in large-scale artis­tic cre­ations that can include hun­dreds or even thou­sands of par­tic­i­pants in a “liv­ing paint­ing” that can best be seen from above.

Dancer describes his cre­ations as, “…an art­ful blend of sci­ence, his­to­ry and math: a whole-body way of stim­u­lat­ing our imag­i­na­tion to see the elu­sive ‘big pic­ture’ and help us bet­ter under­stand our inter­con­nec­tion with all life.”

Over a month the school gath­ered raw mate­ri­als for the project includ­ing hun­dreds of pairs of donat­ed blue jeans, orange fab­ric and gar­den mulch. Dancer arranged the items in a grass field out­side the school on Monday, and instruct­ed the Tawanka stu­dents and staff on what they would need to do to com­plete the painting.

On June 4, 2019, fol­low­ing lunch, they donned color-coordinated (white, brown and black) shirts and made their way out­side to the paint­ing area. Thanks to Dancer’s orga­ni­za­tion­al efforts along with help from PTO vol­un­teers and Tawanka staff, over 800 stu­dents from every grade and staff were set into place with­in min­utes and ready for their pho­to. A small drone was used to cap­ture video and pho­tos as they crouched down to fill in the frame to form an image of an eagle, the school’s mascot. 

The entire process took 23 min­utes. Dancer returned to the school Wednesday morn­ing to show a video of the paint­ing to the stu­dents dur­ing an assem­bly. This ‘reveal’ was the first time they were able to see the results of their project.

The donat­ed blue jeans will be giv­en to a local char­i­ty for distribution.