For the past three spring semesters (way back to my work at Citizen Schools) I have led a team of students in the design and construction of an Art Car. An Art Car, if you don’t know, is an embellished vehicle of some sort. Last year, I ran a sharkcar, the year before, a gatortruck. This year, I received permission to use the school bus. We run our car in The Houston Art Car Parade every second Saturday in May.
Of course, whatever I did had to be removable. Nothing like a challenge.
Over two months my students designed, cut out, painted and decorated about sixty monarch butterflies to festoon on the car. We attached the butterflies using two methods – rare-earth magnets or an unholy sandwich of masking tape-liquid nails-masking tape. Done right, both methods can withstand highway driving speeds. Done right, they both can be removed easily.
I did it right.
I found many advantages to the design choices. I found making the plywood butterflies a manageable one man task. I probably spent 10-15 man-hours cutting the butterflies out. During standardized testing in April, I utilized left over time to park the kids in front of a butterfly to paint. Minimum of time, breadth of involvement.
I found some cons too. Minimum of time doesn’t stack well against the competition. Our school was up front, #112, behind the low-riders & previous winners and followed immediately by the political statement crowd. I felt the bus was slightly naked, especially for a “glue stuff on” art car. I had a dearth of participation from my students – only one showed up! I blame this on my design choice: by making the system so rigid, I de-vested ownership from the kids, instead of investing it. I’m going to be making a few changes next year to boost participation.
I’ve discovered the need for a partner for this project. At three years, I’m at a breaking point. I can’t build and host the event. I know which one I want to do…we’ll see which piece I’ll get to do next year. (Update-since-Draft: a co-worker and long-time attendee has agreed to “host” the school’s meet-up. I made the impressions I had to.)
One last reflection – this is a semi-permanent design. I will add more kinetics props, a hood ornament and roof-thing over the years. This was just a beginning…
Keep it safe & keep the rubber side down out there.
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