In annual tradition, Riley School celebrates Art Week
Rockport — Riley School just completed its annual Art Week celebration. During Art Week this year, faculty, parents, and the children at Riley facilitated arts and craft activities. Riley has a long tradition of holding an annual Art Week, beginning 40 years ago with the first art facilitator Whitney Oppersdorff. Glenna Plaisted, the founder and director of Riley School, and Oppersdorff started the week-long arts celebration as a way to involve children with the outside arts community as well as continue with the creative experience already in place at Riley.
During Art Week, children choose arts and craft activities to participate in and to lead. Each activity is offered for two hours during the afternoon, Monday through Thursday. At the end of the week, on Friday, each activity is presented as a performance, a verbal presentation, or a gallery exhibition. Some of the activities that were offered included a selection of mini-musicals, shorter theatrical adaptations that are based on well-known songs, natural outdoor sculptures, jewelry-making, mask-making, pumpkin carving, yoga, an outdoor ceramics kiln firing, and fine arts including printmaking and painting.
Worth noting are several outdoor sculptures, activities led by both facilitators at Riley and parents of children that attend Riley. Todd Martin, the head of the lower school, worked on an outdoor art installation that was created by stapling fabric onto branch posts. The fabric was then painted using human-sized paint brushes made from grasses and large sticks. It was fun to watch the process as some of the children working on the paintings were much smaller than the paint brushes being used. Susan Akers, a parent of two Riley children, also created a large, movable ball made from branches and zip ties. The children couldnʼt resist climbing inside the sculpture as it was being built and rolling it through the field once it was completed. Similarly, Ava Goodale, a facilitator, along with the children created a waffle fence along the perimeter of the science garden by weaving sticks together. Lindsay Harlow, another facilitator, lead an activity with several children that focused on building a stone cairn along the driveway entrance at Riley.
In addition, an outdoor experimental kiln was created by Tyler Brenton, the new pottery facilitator at Riley. He spent several days and nights, with the help of the grounds keeper, Don Genthner, preparing an outdoor space next to the pottery building for a ceramics pit-fire. Using concrete blocks, bricks, crushed rock, and some imagination, he constructed a permanent outdoor kiln for the Riley campus. Around 20 children participated by creating ceramic pots that were bisque-fired and then wrapped with various wires and coated with paints to create chemical reactions once in the outdoor kiln. Their artwork was then fired overnight. The results were varied, but each piece reminded me of something one might find whilst digging for treasures in ruins of an ancient civilization.
Children went off campus to several locations during Art Week as well, one of them being to Firefly Restoration in Hope, where Andy Swift works on and restores antique fire vehicles. The children went with Morgan Kirkham, the film facilitator at Riley. Once there, they worked on using film techniques to create a documentary film about Swift, showcasing his craft as well as the fire-fighting vehicles he restores, receiving a bit of a visual history lesson in the process.