On Wednesday, April 13, Edison Elementary took part in “Art for the Sky,” a giant living painting done by all 500 students and some staff on the grass. The activity was part of a three-day art/STEM experience presented by aerial artist and educator, Daniel Dancer, during which students crowded into an 80×60 foot light bulb outline, in honor of their school.
Dancer has worked around the world for the past two decades to create living paintings and has completed over 400 projects in 44 states and eight counties. As part of the Art for the Sky experience, Dancer offers virtual assembly and teaches children to look at the whole picture rather than the individual parts and something he calls “skysight”. “Skysight is about learning to see through the eyes of the Earth, through the eyes of future generations, through the eyes of everything, and making decisions based on the whole,” says Dancer.
The virtual assembly was broadcast to all classes a few days before the activity and showed students what they would create and build together as a united school community. He also focused on the importance of caring for the earth and how all living things are interconnected. “It brought tears to my eyes watching my second grade class take in this information and then respond in such a caring and exciting way,” Edison teacher Debbie Riggs said. “What an unforgettable experience. Personally, I have never participated in such an incredible artistic project.
Each student wore a white shirt with blue jeans and squatted inside the outline placed on the grass made of black wood chips. A drone camera was sent into the sky to capture the aerial art image of the light bulb. Students then donned yellow shirts to simulate the light bulb turning on, with 13 students dressed in yellow lining up around the bulb to mimic its glow. “I really didn’t have that in mind until this morning!” It was magical and much smoother than I thought,” said Laura Flosi, director of Edison. “I think the students learned a lot not only about art, but also about our planet and our carbon footprint. It was another kind of art to expose our students to.
Next to the bulb, a number 421 can be seen. Early in Dancer’s projects, he wanted to raise awareness of carbon in our atmosphere and started with the number 350 in his images to represent 350 parts per million of carbon as the safe level of CO2 in our atmosphere. “In 2012, I started putting the actual ppm CO2 count into many of my images to track the rise in ‘temperature’ of the planets so to speak, through art,” Dancer said. Over the ten years of tracking, the number rose to 420.8, which it represented along with the 421 in Edison’s photo. “The last time the CO2 level was this high, it was a much warmer and very different planet. The seas were 80 feet higher, there were no humans on the planet and the crocodiles were swimming in the Arctic,” adds Dancer.
Brenda Etterbeek, the volunteer chair of Art Wheel at Edison, worked to bring the collaboration to the school and wrote a grant for the experiment to the Burbank Arts and Education Foundation in which they received $3,800. Dancer was flown in from Oregon to create Art for the Sky and teach children to see art from a new perspective. “Seeing the project come to fruition gave me a lot of emotions,” said Etterbeek. “I was so excited to have our students and teachers working together to create this beautiful memory.”
Due to Tuesday’s wind and the drone not being able to fly in these conditions, the aerial event was moved to Wednesday, which made timing difficult between state testing and program timings. Curriculum specialist Tracy Shah worked hard to rework Wednesday’s schedule and the drone and camera were operated with the help of Randy Flosi.
The event went very well as the staff helped line up the students by level and drop them side by side into the light bulb. The entire experiment lasted less than an hour, and Burbank School Superintendent Matt Hill and Burbank School Board President Charlene Tabet were on hand to witness the experiment. “The kids were all so excited to be part of a living work of art. It was so fun to watch them come out of school and find a place in the light bulb outline,” Tabet said. “It was awesome to see the whole school involved in this amazing art project,” added Dr. Hill.
To learn more about Daniel Dancer and his Art for the Sky projects, visit his website at www.artforthesky.com.