When Carmel Academy’s art teacher Lori Amer visited the breathtaking Dale Chihuly exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden last spring, she immediately knew that she had to bring the magic of the groundbreaking artist back to her students.
Amer did just that—with a school-wide Chihuly-inspired art installation that was displayed in Carmel Academy’s sukkah.
“Chihuly is such an approachable artist,” Amer said of the world-renowned glass sculptor. “Many of my students have seen his works both in New York and in Jerusalem. He really dared to change this style of art, which has been around for thousands of years. He transformed the style from something more functional to something unique.”
After learning about the artist—his life, his unusual works and his trailblazing techniques—the entire student body came together to create their own Chihuly-inspired art using recycled plastic, acrylic paint and permanent markers. The colorful pieces were then assembled in Chihuly-like chandeliers and hung in the sukkah.
All the students, from the school’s youngest to oldest, contributed to the project. For example, Carmel’s Shorashim transitional kindergarten students decorated the flower shaped bottoms of the water bottles which were strung together with other plastic pieces into an additional chandelier; and the kindergarten students decorated recycled take-out bowls which were melted to resemble Chihuly’s seaforms and rotolos, Amer said.
“The students also learned about the two mitzvot they were performing in making this art: beautifying the sukkah and bal tashchit (recycling),” Amer said.
“I feel so good about making an awesome art project using recycled material,” said fifth grader Nathan Toback.
Classmate Maddy Wisse agreed. “When we finished it really did look like glass, and we did it through recycling. All those empty bottles would have gone to waste, but we turned it into beautiful artwork.”
“Chihuly’s work is abstract so our project really looked like something he would have made,” said Maddy, who had recently visited the exhibit at the Botanical Garden.
Fifth grader Logan Bassell said learning about the artist inspired him to make plans with his family to see Chihuly’s work at the Botanical Garden. “This project will make me more passionate when I go see the exhibit. I am really looking forward to seeing his work up close.”
“The enthusiastic reaction to this project by the students, parents and wider community is unprecedented,” Amer said. “In my 15 years teaching at Carmel Academy, this has been the most talked about art project. Many Carmel Academy families have since visited the New York Botanical Garden to see the Chihuly show, and I am still getting excited questions and comments from my students about the project and the exhibit.”