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Beautifying Brandon
Brandon Valley kids paint garbage cans
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

May 17. 2013 6:00AM
Life’s going to be a little bit more colorful around Brandon this summer.

That’s thanks to a collaborative effort between the City of Brandon and all 265 fifth grade students in the Brandon Valley School District.

The two entities have come together to “pretty up” 46 garbage cans that are located throughout the city parks. It was city park supervisor Devin Coughlin who introduced the idea to elementary art teachers Erin Reiff (Brandon Elementary and Valley Springs Elementary) and Randy Gibbons (Fred Assam Elementary and Robert Bennis Elementary), who got the OK from school administration.

Coughlin said the idea was spurred from a similar project in Sioux Falls, where kids there applied their artwork to city snowplows.

“I stole the idea from them,” he admits.

The city was kind enough to supply $500 of paint for the kids, and the kids, well, they in turn supplied the artistic creativity.

“This is a really great opportunity for students to see how artists give back to their community, not only visually, but in the messages they send,” Rieff said. She also told them to “Think about how amazing Brandon is going to look this summer at the parks and at the baseball fields.”

The project has been in the works for a few months. Prior to distributing 46 garbage cans to the four elementary schools, city staff sanded down the cans and followed up with a fresh coat of white paint, which provided a blank canvas for the budding artists to paint on.

“I told them they have free rein – whatever is appropriate,” Coughlin said.

Rieff said the students, whom she and Gibbons meet with just one day a week, were divided into groups of three to four, all concentrating their efforts on a specific artist or recreating a famous piece of artwork.

“The students … are working together to plan and create a composition either paying homage to an artist or doing a recreation of a famous piece of artwork,” she said.

Madison Kobernusz, 10, was part of the “Starry Nights” themed garbage can, a work of the famed Vincent Van Gough.

She said she’s been having a lot of fun with the project. “It’s all about teamwork,” she said. “And it’s fun that we get to paint and be out in Brandon.”

Logan Buysse, 12, said he and his group weren’t initially sold on their assigned artist, Jasper Johns. The artist is known for helping to change the way art is looked at.

“It’s bright,” Buysse said of Johns work. “When we looked at it for the very time, we were like, ‘What?’ But now when we’re looking at it, we say it looks ‘all right.’ ”

Eleven-year-old Taylen Schmeller’s group’s garbage can resembled that of early 1970s television family, the Partridge Family, bus. While the color scheme wasn’t exactly the same, the outlined blocks of color – a characteristic of pop artist Keith Harring – was taking shape on the garbage can’s exterior.

“I like to outline things and draw,” Schmeller said.

With just two class periods remaining following last week’s session, Rieff told the budding artists, “Don’t worry about it being perfect. Life’s not about being perfect.”

The 46 garbage cans were divided among the four elementary schools in the district. Brandon Elementary and Robert Bennis Elementary both worked on 15, while Fred Assam painted 10 of the cans, and Valley Springs Elementary had six.
Reiff said the end-of-the-year art project also serves as the “last hoorah” for the fifth graders before they move on to middle school.

“To me, as an art teacher, this is what matters. Art can be a lifeline for a community, a school or to brighten someone’s day,” she said. “They may not remember that I taught them everything about coloring, but they will remember these cans in the community.”

Coughlin warns the kids not to get “too attached” to their artwork.

“The thing about garbage cans is they are garbage cans and get used and man-handled,” he said, “so the pictures aren’t going to last forever.”

Brandon Elementary fifth graders (from left) Fiona Wooten, Logan Buysse, Payton DeJong and Landon Merkel work together painting one of 46 garbage cans that are pklaced in city parks throughtout Brandon. Photo by Jill Meier

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