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Our Community Focus

Playground Metamorphosis

Jun 01, 2015 08:38PM ● By Jennifer Neys

Chalk artist Mark Wagner talks about the playground art project to Valhalla students.

By Marji Calbeck, Valhalla Elementary Principal

On May 18 and 19, Valhalla Elementary students and staff were given the opportunity to work with an extremely talented and internationally known chalk-drawing artist, Mark Wagner. The two day project started with Mark sharing some of his stories and artwork with the students, including images of his chalk drawing that is in the Guinness Book of Records for being the largest in the world.  Over the course of two days, every student and teacher were able to join Mark on the playground to contribute to a collaborative piece dedicated to the memory of Carole Larson, our former art teacher who passed away in March.

It was truly a remarkable experience to participate in this project.  The students were quick to take to the ground and create beautiful butterflies and other imaginative designs. Mark’s enthusiasm and artistic nature provided a perfect environment for the students to engage in their work. Watching each child and adult draw and create was inspiring. The resounding amount of focus and attention given to each drawing was a great reminder of the important role art can play in education by allowing students to have multiple ways to express themselves.

This opportunity came about as the result of the efforts of the chairperson for our annual art fair, Nicole Sylvester. The theme of this year’s art fair, held on April 1, was “urban art.” Through her research on-line, she learned about Mark’s work and contacted him. He was not able to come for the art fair, but he offered to come and do the assemblies and create an artistic work on the playground. From there the project morphed into an opportunity to create a beautiful memory of Mrs. Larson and tie it into a display for open house on May 20. The students were able to take their parents out to the playground and show them the specific part they had in creating this beautiful tribute to their beloved art teacher.

Additionally, this project was a perfect culminating activity to show how art can so wonderfully connect all the themes we have strived to develop and nurture all year, including community building, problem solving, risk taking, creativity, innovation and a love of learning. To find out more about Mark and his amazing art, visit his website at: