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Westbrook creates yearlong outdoor art display

Oct 31, 2016 09:30AM ● By Tori La Rue

Scott Hampton, Westbook Elementary School’s art teacher, helped each class decorate a silhouette of a dancing figure to be displayed on the school’s outer fence. (Tori La Rue/City Journals)   

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

Westbrook Elementary School’s art teacher and students worked together to bring a yearlong dance party and outdoor art display to the school’s west exterior fence. 

Scott Hampton, the school’s art teacher, created cartoon stick-figure silhouettes in dancing poses from thin plyboard, painted them white and brought them to Westbrook for decoration. Each class chose one of the figurines to design in September.

“Most of the [school’s] art projects have been desk size or smaller and done on an individual basis,” said Principal Karen Chatterton. “This art project required that an entire class work collaboratively to express one idea. The collaborative process enabled the children to think about art in a different way.” 

Kindergarten classes painted their silhouette with polka-dot sponges—each student adding six dots to the completed project. The rest of the grades created tie-dye-type figures by coloring coffee filters with washable markers, squirting them with water and letting the colors smear. The children then cut their coffee filters into triangles which they pasted on the silhouette to make a collage that Hampton sealed with decoupage glue and varnish. 

When they were completed, Hampton wired the rainbow-colored figures to the fence. 

“We wanted to share our art with the community,” Chatterton said of the outdoor exhibit. “The kids love seeing their art displayed. They feel like it is worthy to be seen by the public, and it makes they proud.” 

Hampton came up with the idea for the piece he calls The Dance Party by viewing a stick-figure art piece that was mounted on scaffolding in downtown Salt Lake City more than 10 years ago. Each stick figured looked like it was falling, and Hampton said he knew at that point that he wanted to create a similar conceptual art piece but one that was “more joyful.” 

Hampton had the idea but just needed an opportunity to accomplish it, he said. After teaching special education for nearly 30 years, Hampton took a job teaching art at Westbrook and James E. Moss Elementary Schools. He said he seized the chance to create the work of art that had been in his head for years. 

Finding the cartoon figures, projecting the size of them, drawing them, cutting them, painting them, helping the children design them, varnishing them and hanging them took “hours upon hours,” according to Hampton, but it was worth it to see the final product, he said. 

“The kids would be looking at it, and they don’t remember the parts they contributed because all the pieces are all thrown on there,” Hampton said. “It’s your ideal kind of cooperative class project.”

Unfortunately, the bright-colored figures created from water-based markers faded faster from sunlight than Hampton expected. 

“It breaks my heart fading to more and more pastel colors,” Hampton said.

The art teacher created a similar conglomeration of silhouetted images in his own yard, except he painted the silhouettes with a uniform color in acrylic paint. These silhouettes have not yet faded, so Hampton plans to have the Westbrook student body apply coats of bright-colored paint over their silhouettes in the spring to give them a new look. 

“It’s a two-part project, really, that will last all year,” he said. 

Chatterton said the bright-colored figures will continue to intrigue those who see the school and visually display the school’s culture of happiness and kindness.