The Mabin School is heading into the woods, offering up its own art installation at Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, Oct. 5.
The entire student body from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 6 — about 150 students in all — have been hard at work since April to turn their playground into a magical forest.
Though the trees are neatly packed away in storage until the big night, art teachers Elena Soní and Megan Fehlberg, along with principal Kim McInnes, shared their experiences helping to facilitate their kids on the project called Student Transformations.
Sitting in the art room of the St. Clair Avenue West and Avenue Road school, the three were joined by students Izzy Slone from the Grade 6 class, Saul Walkove from Grade 4, and Sophia Logie from the Grade 2 troupe.
“The process was quite beautiful. The children were asked if they were to transform the program — what would they do — and 150 voices gave their opinion,” Soní said, adding the Mabin School has a 33-year-old tradition of doing a project with trees as the main theme.
The students took to the project like new saplings, and branched out even further, observed Fehlberg.
“As the kids were starting to work over on my side, they just began to tell a story,” she said. “They began to say, ‘In this forest there are diamonds on the ground, there are fairies that live in the forest’.
“So I just started writing down some of the things I was hearing, and at the end of class, I gathered them and said, ‘Tell me more about this forest’. From there each grade had come, we had read what was written by the first group and sequentially each grade added to it. So the narrative was written by the entire school, which is really cool.”
Each grade was given several themed trees to work on for a total 30 for the entire playground, that covers a 200-square-meter space that faces Poplar Plains Road in Rathnelly.
All three students said they are excited about the big day when they will be able to share with the community their hard work.
Izzy admitted she was thrilled by the thought of getting to share the city’s streets with professional artists.
“I was really excited because every year, since I was old enough to appreciate it, I’ve gone with my parents and I’ve looked at all these installations that the artists have done — and they’ve all been amazing and when I heard it, I was like, ‘Really? We’re actually going to be participating in this?’ I was really excited.”
For Saul, it was a chance to get his hands dirty.
“My favourite thing was papier-mâchéing the trees,” he said, adding nobody was given the short end of the stick when it came to work.
Sophia said she was eager to see the response from art connoisseurs who see the forest for all the trees.
“I want them to think, wow, the kids really worked really hard on this,” she said. “And I also want them to think, as soon as they walk in and see all the trees, it’s going to transport them from their house to a magical forest far away.”
As for why the school is taking part in Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, the answer is community.
“The nature of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche project did appeal to us because this is a community-oriented school, and to be a part of a bigger community project,” McInnes said.
Fehlberg agreed, but added playing a bigger role in the art community will feed the kids’ imaginations.
“We also really think kids, in general, should have more exposure to art and art experiences, and to be able to have outlets for their creativity,” she said.
“That’s something that we really pride ourselves on at Mabin, and wanted to share with our community.”