As a commuter city, Houston has a love affair with cars. You'd have to pry our hands off the steering wheel before we would give up driving, art car maven Rebecca Bass says.
"Art cars are a great medium to show your artwork and take art out of the galleries and into the community," she says.
Bass has been teaching in Houston Independent School District inner city academies for more that 27 years. She has contributed more than 25 art cars to the parade, and many of these whimsical creations emerged out of her own curriculum at middle and high schools. Though she intends on retiring after this scholastic year, she's going out with a big bang by leading Jefferson Davis High School students through their first art car in partnership with the Robotics Department.
The vehicle will ride at the 25th Annual Art Car Parade, set for 1 p.m. Saturday.
"It's a community art project where students meet artists all over the world, "Bass explains. "I tell my students that they are famous for five days. They never forget this experience. It changes their lives."
"I tell my students that they are famous for those five days, and they never forget this experience. It changes their lives."
The blueprint is modeled after the band Earth, Wind & Fire with some water elements thrown in for good luck. The idea transpired from early exploratory student drawings, which revealed a desire to incorporate many moving parts. The final design has a fire-spitting eagle, a moving drummer, two rising yogis, fog machines and a water fountain operated with a computerized system programmed by the students.
The protruding parts are made out of foam, painted and decorated with beads, coins and recycled jewelry parts, watches, musical instruments, vases, silk flowers and metal scraps from local vendors and private donors. Students learned how to weld, screw, use silicone, operate a hot glue gun and apply rotary and linear motors.
But crafting art cars opens the doors to teach valuable life lessons that are otherwise difficult to nurture in an academic classroom setting like teamwork, collaboration, problem-solving skills and pride. Most importantly, the project ends up encouraging students to stay in school and pursue collegiate-level education.
"With any project we do in school, the goal is not only completing the specific task," Paloma Garner, biology and robotics teacher, explains. "It's creating passion. With the culture of education being testing, it's very hard to teach everyday problem solving when you are preparing for the test all the time.
"When they complete the project, now they have the confidence to tackle another problem on their own they don't need step by step guidance."
"Doing a project like this where there's no specific solution in mind and no path to get there, it forces the kids to create their own solutions. What's awesome about this is that when they complete the project, now they have the confidence to tackle another problem on their own without the need for step by step guidance."
Education should be about creating problem solvers, she says.
In this Art & About video adventure (above), CultureMap checks out the students' progress, and chats with the participants and the teachers to learn the nuts and bolts of art car design — and what they've enjoyed from the process.
The 25th Annual Art Car Parade organized by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art is on Saturday at 1 p.m. and rolls down Allen Parkway from Waugh Drive to Bagby. Click here for information on art car related events leading up to the parade.