BRISTOL - As an art teacher at South Side Elementary School, ‚ÄúI have yet to come across a class that doesn‚Äôt love to splatter paint,‚ÄĚ said Walter Lewandoski.
‚ÄúAny way, any form, any shape, watercolors, tempera, it doesn‚Äôt matter. It‚Äôs always ‚Äėcan we throw paint?‚Äô And yes it‚Äôs fun but it‚Äôs a mess,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúSo my challenge was - how could I incorporate Jackson Pollack into my curriculum without ending up with a disaster to clean up?‚ÄĚ
Lewandoski presented his solution to that question recently at the Connecticut Art Education Association (CAEA) Conference and at the Board of Education‚Äôs December meeting.
‚ÄúWhen people ask me what I do I don‚Äôt tell them I‚Äôm an art teacher. I tell them I‚Äôm a teacher of creative problem solvers, and this came out of solving a problem inspired by my students,‚ÄĚ he said, when demonstrating that solution, which was inspired by glove ports used to handle hazardous materials in an isolation booth.
Lewandoski built a clear plastic box, roughly three by three feet cubed, with fitted black gloves. The user can reach in to dip a paintbrush into paint-filled red plastic cups and fling the colors at a small canvas placed inside.
‚ÄúIt had to be portable, it had to be lightweight. It‚Äôs less than 10 pounds, it‚Äôs under $50. This is prototype number two. There‚Äôs more plans on the drawing board. I‚Äôm exploring a patent on it and I‚Äôm looking for some sharks,‚ÄĚ he said jokingly, referring to the ‚ÄúShark Tank‚ÄĚ reality show where inventors present their ideas to a panel of potential investors.
During the demonstration Carly Fortin, district director of teaching and learning, ‚Äúgraciously offered to be Mr. Lewandoski‚Äôs muse,‚ÄĚ as Assistant Superintendent Catherine Carbone put it.
Fortin put her hands in the gloves and spattered some colors onto the canvas. Then she withdrew her hands and held them up to show they were clean. Lewandoski opened a flap in the back to remove the canvas.
‚ÄúOf course you want to take your creation home, so I‚Äôve coordinated the 12 by 12 inch canvas with a 12 by 12 pizza box,‚ÄĚ he said, putting the canvas neatly in the box, to laughter and applause.
‚ÄúI have two of these. I set them up in the back of the classroom. I give the students five minutes. They put their name on a canvas, we put it in, we put the paint in, they go paint,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúYou can go as wild as you want, without paint going anywhere other than inside the plastic.‚ÄĚ
He said when he presented the paint booth at the CAEA conference, he got a great response. ‚ÄúEveryone who came to my workshop wants one. They‚Äôve been emailing me, texting me, calling me, looking for plans, dimensions, materials.‚ÄĚ
Conversations with colleagues at the conference gave him all kinds of ideas for how the booth could be used - for putting glaze on pottery, for paint parties at different grade levels, etc.
‚ÄúMy daughter works for The Pines nursing care center in the summer as a recreation assistant,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúI can see this being therapeutic for elderly people in rehab. They can just sit there and throw some paint around, and get a canvas that they can hang up.‚ÄĚ
Lewandoski said he would leave the paint booth at the school board offices and pick it up later in the week.
‚ÄúDid you have more canvasses so we can try it out?‚ÄĚ asked Board Vice Chair Karen Vibert.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôre in the car, so afterward I‚Äôll put them on the table so you can have some fun,‚ÄĚ he replied.
‚ÄúAnd on behalf of the Bristol public schools we will invest in you and take a 50 percent cut on any of the monies that come in,‚ÄĚ Carbone joked.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.