All-school art project will hang outside CFT for years to come

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Claire Bleckmann colors a metal bird for an art project at Curtis Tigard Elementary.
Students at Charles F. Tigard Elementary School have birds on the brain.

This week, students at the school are getting out their paints and leaving a mark, helping create a flock of life-sized bird sculptures which will be hung outside the school for years to come.

The project is part of CFT’s Art Literacy program. The program — run through the Tigard-Tualatin School District — works with classrooms to teach students about art and art history.

This week, students began a lesson on John James Audubon, the 19th-century naturalist and painter famous for his lifelike paintings of America’s birds.

Audubon — for whom The Audubon Society is named — identified 25 new species of birds during his life.

Traditionally, students in Art Literacy classes learn about a famous artist, then try to emulate their style with simple art projects.

“Typically, they have done watercolors for Audubon,” said Wendy McDonnal, the district’s art literacy coordinator.

That wasn’t the case this year.

“We wanted to end our year big, and we went very big,” said Kim Benedetti, a volunteer who teaches art literacy at CFT. “We wanted to do something so that (kids) could come back to CFT and say, ‘That’s my artwork.’”

The school worked with Sherwood company Commercial Design Systems Inc., which donated several metal birds for the students to paint.

The company previously worked with students at Mary Woodward Elementary in 2014 on a similar project for a display outside Whole Foods Market on Southwest Scholls Ferry Road.

Every student at the school will paint a bird, which will be mounted to the outside of the school on large metal trees.

“What a great opportunity for our kids,” said Sharon Koch, who teaches fourth grade.

When finished, the sculptures are expected to cost Commercial Design Systems about $2,500 in donated materials and labor. The elementary school supplied an additional $1,000 to the project from last year’s Art in the Burbs fundraiser.

This isn’t the first legacy project on CFT’s campus, Koch said.

“When we built the school that very first year, the teachers thought it felt like an institution because the walls were so beige,” said Koch, who has taught fourth grade at the school since it opened in 2003. “We did a tile project where the kids got to make these ceramic tiles, and everyone did their own.”

More than a decade later, Koch said she still has former students who come back to the school and find their artwork.

“They come back and say, ‘There’s mine, and there’s yours, Mrs. Koch.’ This will be another permanent piece that they can have and enjoy.”

The birds painted by fourth-and fifth-grade classes will be taking flight, Benedetti said, to symbolize the student’s journey to middle school.

Fourth-grader Kevin Bird, 10, painted his to look like a cardinal.

“I like red,” he said as he filled in a wing with brightly colored paint. “So the cardinal is my favorite bird.”

Nearby, fourth-grader Sarah Silvis, 10, made her bird a rich blue.

“I think it looks cool,” she said. “I paint a lot. Painting gives me time to think about different animals and do stuff, and it’s fun.”

Sarah said it was Audubon’s dream to paint every bird in America as a record of what they looked like. She said she wanted to follow Audubon’s example and try to make her bird as lifelike as possible.

“I’m going for realism as my main subject,” Sarah said, looking at one of Audubon’s paintings as inspiration. “I’ve been painting a lot of birds. I like their feathers and how they can fly. It’s elegant. It’s cool how well they can maneuver themselves in the air.”

The sculptures are expected to be installed around the school next month.

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