November 16, 2012 12:00AM
Teams of students raced against the clock, Thursday, folding, tearing and taping acres of newsprint in order to transform classmates into robot warriors, as part of Pittsburg State University’s Art Day. More than 330 students and teachers from high schools in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma participated in the event.
“The response has been amazing,” said Rhona Shand, PSU Art Department chairperson. “When we started this, we had 40 or 50 students. Then the next year it was more than 100. Each year, more schools have participated. The growth has been phenomenal.”
For this year’s Art Day, groups of students competed in two categories. For the robot warrior contest, the teams could use only tape and newsprint. For the robot warrior pet contest, the teams were allowed to bring 100-300 like items such as ping-pong balls, Styrofoam cups, pipe cleaners, etc. Individually, students also competed in a self-portrait contest.
In addition to the on-site competitions, students attending Art Day were also invited to enter their own artwork in a juried show.
As she worked with her team on their entry in the robot warrior competition, Carthage (Mo.) High School student Jenifer Jenifer Ovalle said she and her classmates were having a good time creating art on the fly.
“We really didn’t plan it,” Ovalle said. “We thought about something right on the spot.”
Her art teacher, Cheryl Church, said she was enjoying watching the students work on their project together.
“I love the groups and seeing the collaboration,” Church said. “It is great that these kids are all working together. And, they seem to be having fun.”
Planning and hosting Art Day also means working as a team for the Art Department, Shand said.
“This is a big job and everyone in the department pitches in,” Shand said.
This year, it was Marjorie Schick who led the effort. Schick’s internationally known wearable art is included in major permanent collections around the globe, so it was perhaps natural that one of the student competitions would feature art that students wore.
“I had done a project with newsprint in the classroom before, so I knew it would go well,” Schick said with a smile.
The competition concluded with a style show set to music at which the robot warriors did their best to impress a panel of judges. Guest artist Margaret Roach Wheeler wrapped up the day’s events with a talk.
Shand said Art Day sends a strong message to students about the role and value of art in today’s society.
“It tells students that the arts are relevant to our communities,” Shand said. “It reminds them how the arts can help develop teamwork skills and critical thinking.”
And, as the teachers and students pointed out, it’s also fun.