Students see Beauty of Bronze

Julian Estrada and Eric Bravo look at the sculpture “Ped” as it is explained by the artist, Kevin Pettelle, right, during the Beauty of Bronze field trip Oct. 4. (Karen Larsen photo)


| By Karen Larsen |

On Oct. 4, Rock Island Elementary School students had the chance to join one of seven Beauty of Bronze field trips that are organized each year for the fifth graders in Wenatchee School District elementary schools.

The field trip is sponsored by a number of foundations and community organizations including the PTSA’s of Wenatchee and Rock Island elementary schools, Crunch Pak, NCW Foundation for Youth, Wenatchee Art Commission, Washington State Art Commission, Puget Sound Energy and the Woods Family Fund. The Wenatchee School District, the Performing Arts Center and the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center provide in-kind help in the form of facilities, staff and transportation. “It takes a lot of different groups to make it happen,” said Jeanette Marantos who coordinates the field trip program, which is currently in its 10th year.

Before the day of the field trip, Marantos visited Rock Island Elementary to introduce the children to art vocabulary through the study of local art and to give them clay to begin practicing for their own sculpture which they would create on the day of the field trip. Marantos said that those who organize the program are hoping to be able to expand Beauty of Bronze to the Eastmont School District, but it is just a matter of finding sufficient funding and organizing the logistics of the pre-instruction that goes together with the field trip.

When they arrived at the Performing Arts Center, the students listened to a presentation by artist Kevin Pettelle regarding the process of making bronze sculptures. They also toured the backstage of the Performing Arts Center. “It’s about all the arts, not just sculpture,” said Art on the Avenues volunteer Steve Lachowicz. Later, they went to tour some of the sculptures in Riverfront Park with Pettelle and museum volunteers. As the students toured, they carried clipboards and drew sketches of the sculptures.

Standing before his sculpture “Ped,” which is located across from the walking bridge to the park, Pettelle told the children that the sculpture is really an unusual family portrait. Different members of his family modeled for different parts of the foot. As he searched for a model for the heel print, he saw the swirls on the top of his baby son Jace’s head, and decided to use those. Also, the sculpture was designed especially for its location. It was meant to preserve the view of sculptures behind it, like “Pre-Mathematics” by Bernard Hosey, and to complement the natural setting near the river.

After a lunch break, it was time for the Andy Goldsworthy Challenge, in which students are given a range of natural materials, including pine cones, drift wood, sheep fleece, seed pods, bleached bones and rocks with which to build their own sculpture. They gathered in groups of four on a lawn area of the park and waited for the signal to begin.

Students had twenty minutes to create and name their work. Sometimes, with careful balancing acts and always with a lot of teamwork and creativity, they took these simple materials and made something meaningful out of them. When the challenge was over, a photo was taken of each sculpture and the children toured around to see the work of other groups.

Following the Andy Goldsworthy Challenge, students took part in the long-awaited culminating activity at the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center. They had the chance to create their own wax sculpture mold. The molds will be cast in bronze and will be displayed at the museum from Nov. 23 to Dec. 7. Then the children will be given their sculptures to keep.

Rock Island fifth grade teacher Chuck Kenck said that being involved with Beauty of Bronze has been a great opportunity for his students. “Our kids don’t really have these experiences a lot. This is wonderful,” he said.

“We’re so thrilled to be a part of it this year,” said his wife and fellow teacher, Pary Kenck.

The enthusiasm of the children could also be felt. They had been looking forward to making their own bronze sculptures for a long time, and put a good deal of thought into what they would create. Fifth grader Jesus Carrera said of the field trip, “It’s amazing.”

Each year, students in one school are assigned the task of writing an essay telling what the Beauty of Bronze field trip experience meant to them. This year, this task will be given to both Sunnyslope and Rock Island Elementary students. Each of the four classroom teachers involved will choose one of his or her student’s compositions to be read aloud by the student at the annual Art on the Avenues fundraiser in November.

All of the students will have the chance to bring their family members to an artists’ reception at Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center from 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 6.