Art teacher has clean solution for fun, messy art

Published on Friday, 14 December 2018 20:34


BRISTOL - As an art teacher at South Side Elementary School, “I have yet to come across a class that doesn’t love to splatter paint,” said Walter Lewandoski.

“Any way, any form, any shape, watercolors, tempera, it doesn’t matter. It’s always ‘can we throw paint?’ And yes it’s fun but it’s a mess,” he said. “So my challenge was - how could I incorporate Jackson Pollack into my curriculum without ending up with a disaster to clean up?”

Lewandoski presented his solution to that question recently at the Connecticut Art Education Association (CAEA) Conference and at the Board of Education’s December meeting.

“When people ask me what I do I don’t tell them I’m an art teacher. I tell them I’m a teacher of creative problem solvers, and this came out of solving a problem inspired by my students,” 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.

“It had to be portable, it had to be lightweight. It’s less than 10 pounds, it’s under $50. This is prototype number two. There’s more plans on the drawing board. I’m exploring a patent on it and I’m looking for some sharks,” he said jokingly, referring to the “Shark Tank” reality show where inventors present their ideas to a panel of potential investors.

During the demonstration Carly Fortin, district director of teaching and learning, “graciously offered to be Mr. Lewandoski’s muse,” 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.

“Of course you want to take your creation home, so I’ve coordinated the 12 by 12 inch canvas with a 12 by 12 pizza box,” he said, putting the canvas neatly in the box, to laughter and applause.

“I 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,” he said. “You can go as wild as you want, without paint going anywhere other than inside the plastic.”

He said when he presented the paint booth at the CAEA conference, he got a great response. “Everyone who came to my workshop wants one. They’ve been emailing me, texting me, calling me, looking for plans, dimensions, materials.”

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.

“My daughter works for The Pines nursing care center in the summer as a recreation assistant,” he said. “I 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.”

Lewandoski said he would leave the paint booth at the school board offices and pick it up later in the week.

“Did you have more canvasses so we can try it out?” asked Board Vice Chair Karen Vibert.

“They’re in the car, so afterward I’ll put them on the table so you can have some fun,” he replied.

“And 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,” Carbone joked.

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, Arts, Bristol on Friday, 14 December 2018 20:34. Updated: Friday, 14 December 2018 20:37.