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Creatures on their minds: (Hancock Middle School) students learn about environmental art
Creatures in their minds: Students learn about environmental art (May 21, 2012)

By KURT HAUGLIE (khauglie@mininggazette.com)
The Daily Mining Gazette

HANCOCK - Murphy Mallow and Chad Raasio were trying to find the best pieces of driftwood to finish their creature creation which Raasio called a dinosaur during a presentation about temporary art Friday at Hancock Middle School.

After picking through several large piles of driftwood, the HMS seventh-grade students worked to create their creatures after hearing a workshop by artist Mark Larson.

Larson, who lives in Stephenson, Mich., but is a Duluth native, said his workshop on creating art from found items is based on his book "Unkle Ake's (Oak-ee) Field Guide to Infrequently Found Animals on the Shore of Lake Superior."
"It's kind of an offshoot of what I liked to do as a kid," he said.

As a child, Larson said he would gather items he found on the beach and make creations from them. Later in life, that skill was honed after he met English temporary environmental artist, Andy Goldsworthy.

Larson's book contains photographs of his creations made at various locations around Lake Superior in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada. There are spiders, birds and even human-looking creations made from wood and stone.

"You make your art only out of natural found materials close to where you found it and leave it there," he said.
Driftwood is a perfect medium for the art, Larson said, because most people can see possibilities for creations in the material.

"Everybody sees faces," he said. "I just took it from there."
Larson said he talks about creating art from found items to all ages of people.
"I've done workshops from preschoolers to senior citizens," he said. "They absolutely loved it."

During the portion of his workshop Friday when the students put together their creations, Larson urged them to be careful with the driftwood.

"Pieces can be part of two different creatures," he said. "Try not to break any of it."

Larson also told the students he put a great deal of work into gathering the driftwood.

"Although it may look like a bunch of junk, I've spent over a thousand hours looking for it," he said.

Also, Larson had to make the students understand when they were finished with their creations, they wouldn't be able to take them home with them; they had to go back into the plastic bins he used to bring them to the school. Even some adults want to keep their art.

"I've had people offer me money to take home their driftwood creations," he said.

Larson said in most state and Canadian provincial parks and campgrounds, found items can be used to make creations, but they have to left where they're made. In American federal campgrounds and parks, structures aren't even supposed to be made.

"They consider it a building," he said.

Besides making their creations, students had to write about the process for teacher Ardys Maki, who said the program is funded by a Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative grant.
Maki said Larson's book was the inspiration for the class project.

"When we saw the book, we liked the creatures, and it got the students interested in writing," she said. "We'll be looking at, hopefully, some really great writing."


 
 
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