Monday, February 2, 2015

Save the Monarchs: Inspired by youth

It all started with a high school student artist, Molly Denning. We met one day last fall to discuss a potential internship, but as often happens in these situations, she declined the internship. High school kids are busy — really busy. Heck, middle school and elementary school kids are busy, too!

Molly was too busy to intern with Earth Charter Indiana, but she isn't too busy to create beautiful sculptures from repurposed materials. I invited her to send me images of her work (see more below), and the first photo she shared with me was monarch butterflies created from pages of discarded National Geographic magazines.

Work by Molly Denning.
This was the spark. Eying this lovely piece, and reflecting on the precipitous decline in the monarch population (1 billion in the 90s; less than 100 million now), I realized that students all over Indiana could be creating 3D monarch butterflies — made from repurposed materials.

I went to Shannon Linker at the Arts Council of Indianapolis with this idea and before long, we were off and running with our Call for Entries for 4th and 5th grade students. Numerous partners have come on board; and I have a feeling more will arrive before our April exhibit at the Artsgarden.

The beauty of this idea, I want to emphasize, is that it came from a young person — Molly — who is motivated by her concerns about climate change and other erosive human impacts on the planet.

She's interviewed here in this Fort Wayne publication.

Visiting Valley Mills Elementary school in late January to talk about this project, I found the 4th graders to be more knowledgeable about monarchs than me. How can this be? Well, students at this Project-Based Learning school routinely study monarch butterflies in second grade. So of course they know a good deal about monarchs, and the relatively easy solution of growing milkweed to create habitat.

One fourth grader suggested that we could think of these habitats as "pitstops" for the butterflies.

I love that idea, especially in a state where racing is such a popular sport.

We won't, however, just be racing for the cure to this problem (so to speak), we'll also be exploring the causes of monarch decline, from human overdevelopment to GMOs to climate change.

Already, I've had numerous confirmations from art teachers all over the state, from Bloomington and Columbus all the way up to Michigan City.

This exhibit and concomitant public events, still TBD, have gathered many partners, as I said, and I am reminded the beauty of living in Indianapolis, that so many people want to collaborate, especially when it comes to serving our youth.

I am also reminded of the brilliance of youth, of Molly and of the Valley Mills 4th grader — who knows what her "pitstop" metaphor might do for our Save the Monarchs project?

Here's more work by Molly.

Not all species of jellyfish will flourish in a climate changed future. This species, known as Peach Blossom, is endangered.

Hopefully, before Molly goes off to college, she'll be able to show off her work in an Indianapolis gallery.

While at Valley Mills, I learned the students are also concerned about endangered animals. There's an entire hallway filled with their 2D art about these embattled creatures. I'll leave you with a couple of their pieces:


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