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Invisible Child Sculpture Project

By Janet O'Brien Buchanan & White Lake Middle School 8th Grade Art Classes

The Invisible Child Art Project, not to be confused with the African Project, began as a graduate paper at Wayne State University. The paper was a study of children that are typically quiet, respectful, complete all their schoolwork, and don't appear to have any special friend(s).

The students at White Lake Middle School were finishing their pottery assignment when I introduced the packing tape sculpture lesson. Since the sculptures would be transparent I began the lesson with a question, "What does Invisible Child mean to you?" These students can be talkative, but this time there was a palpable silence in the room. As I walked among the art tables, I said, "there is no wrong or right answer, what do you think that statement means"? After a brief pause a brave student answered. "Well, it's a kid that sits alone at lunch." The hands slowly began to go up. "It is the kid no one really knows, they just come to school, but you really never talk to them." "They're always by themselves." "They don't have any friends" etc. As the steady flow of answers began, I was amazed and delighted.

BuchananThe Full Body Packing Tape Sculpture, (The Invisible Child Project) introduces students to sculpture, human anatomy, contemporary art, installation art, working together as a team, composition, structure, math and science. Working in groups of 4 the students began their sculptures. As a team they needed to pick out who were the model, wrapper, cutter and assembler.

This was probably the most fun and chaotic lesson I've ever done. The 8th graders had a great time wrapping and assembling the sculptures. We had a lot of laughs as mistakes were made and lessons learned. After the project some student comments were: listen more to Mrs. Buchanan; do not put sticky side down first; they recommend not mixing parts of different models (they don't fit together); wear a hat or hoodie when taping the head - the tape sticks to your hair. (No kidding); do not wrap the arms or legs too tightly - it is very hard to cut off of the model.

As we wrapped up the sculpture lesson, visitors to the art room spotted the 18 life size sculptures and the news spread throughout our school. Students and staff started asking what are you going to do with them? I had originally thought we'd set up the sculptures in the media center. What did happen was better that I could have imagined.

The Invisible Child sculptures were given to the Main Office, Student Services, and classroom teachers. Several sculptures were saved for viewing in the main showcase as an installation. What began as a sculptural lesson has become 18 pieces of art and a tool for the counseling staff. The school social worker was so impressed when she saw them that she began to use a sculpture in the Caring Community Classes.