The works of internationally renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama are the inspiration for a colorful and unique student exhibit to be unveiled when the MS Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce holds its After 5 event on Thursday, November 18 at Coast Episcopal School’s Gail Keenan Art Center in Long Beach.
The contributing artists are sixth graders from the 70 year old independent school whose inspired projects are the result of their introduction to Yayoi Kusama by CES Art Instructor Stacey Hardy. Herself a fan of Ms. Kusama’s art, Hardy realized that the story of Kusama’s inspiration, her artist process and the recognition she received for her contributions would resonate with her sixth grade art class.
Hardy first cultivated her student’s interest with Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity, a children’s book written by New York’s Museum of Modern Art Curator Sarah Suzuki, who wrote the book with the consultation of the artist’s studio. The 26-page book tells the story of Kusama’s childhood in Japan, where her love for art emerged, to her adult years in New York, where her use of “infinity nets” (polka dots used to cover surfaces) became the trademark of her work.
In the art world, Miss Kusama fabricates large scale, completely white rooms in museums. Museum attendees are then invited to place one brightly colored sticker dot anywhere in the room – on walls, floors, furniture, and appliances.
Hardy’s vision for her own classroom was for her students to create their own, tiny “obliteration rooms.” In order to provide her students with the appropriate “canvas”, Hardy partnered with Seemann Makerspace Director Will Ashley, who guided each student as they visualized the room they wanted to recreate and then proceeded to bring that design to life through the Makerspace’s 3D printers. Many students also fabricated small accessories out of clay. After painting each room white, students added the final touches- tiny, multi-colored dots.
Three sixth grade students shared their insights about the project and the artist. Parker Pace, who chose the Seemann Makerspace itself as the site for his mini obliteration room, explained that as his peers were choosing homes and stores for their rooms, it occurred to him that no one had considered doing the Makerspace itself. “I’ll be that person,” he stated proudly and added that the artist’s ability to see people’s auras was interesting to him. Leon Gavin, who chose to use a living and dining room combination for his mini room, explained that what impressed him about Miss Kusama is that she used her disability of mental illness to be an advantage in her life. For Garrett Estay, who also chose to create a living room, this project was the first opportunity he’s had to use spray paint and 3D printing at the same time. What appealed to him most about Yayoi Kusama is that, “Nothing stops her from doing what she likes.”
The cooperative classroom efforts of Hardy and Ashley are reflective of the creative, individualized instruction upon which Coast Episcopal School has built its 70 year reputation, The project, which was both challenging and exciting for the sixth graders, fully integrated all STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering,Art and Mathematics disciplines), an intentional integration that guides CES curriculum.
Hardy, who is the 2020 Visual Arts Award recipient from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters, has a BA in Art from Loyola University New Orleans and a MFA in Ceramic Sculpture from the University of Georgia.
Ashley, a Coast Episcopal Alumnus, holds a BS in psychology from Mississippi State University and a Masters degree in Learning, Design and Technology from Penn State University. As its Director, Ashley will participate in the Coast Episcopal Seemann Makerspace Dedication, scheduled for 11 am also on Thursday, November 18, 2021, honoring Bill and Wynn Seemann whose gift made the CES Makerspace a reality.
The CES sixth grade’s Obliteration Rooms will be one of several student exhibits unveiled when the MS Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce hosts its “Chamber After Five” event from 5 – 7 pm on November 18.
Until the school closes for Christmas break on Friday, December 17, the general public will have the opportunity to enjoy the students’ art installation by contacting the school at 228-452-9442 and setting up an appointment to visit the Gail Keenan Art Center anytime during school hours.
Coast Episcopal School has been dedicated to a life-long love of learning by developing the whole child – mind, body and spirit – and providing a joyful, unique, and nurturing Judeo-Christian community that inspires its students to imagine and create a better world.
Founded in 1950, CES is a member of the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS). For additional information: Coast Episcopal School, 5065 Espy Avenue, Long Beach MS 39560. 228-452-9442 coastepiscopalschool.org