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Students learn art-felt lessons to create mural

June 01, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

In recent weeks, fifth-grade students at Boonsboro Elementary School have been working with a resident artist creating a mural through a process called felting.

Plans call for the mural, which depicts the school and the surrounding area in shapes and designs made from colored felt, to be displayed in the school's main hallway.

Felt is wool fleece that has been compressed into a fabric, artist Ginny Barnes of Potomac, Md., said Monday. In compressing fleece into fabric, the felt is wet with Murphy's Oil Soap and hot water.

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Students pressed their fingers into the fleece to aid with the compression, Barnes said. They liked that part because it was messy.

Barnes has spent about three weeks with the approximately 100 fifth-grade students at the school, teaching them the history of felt and how to work with the material, she said.

Barnes travels to schools across the state as part of the Maryland State Arts Council Arts In Education Artists-In-Residence Program.

"It is fun," student Amy Jo Hoover, 11, said. "We can get messy and don't have to get yelled at by the teachers."

Andrew McLaughlin, 11, said he had never heard of felting before Barnes came, but now it is his favorite art form.

The project was paid for by a $2,500 state grant and matched by money left in a fund by a former school employee, arts teacher Janet Madsen said.

It has been great for the students, who have been working in groups of 10, to be involved in a project from start to finish, Madsen said.

Barnes' last day at the school is today.

In addition to felting, Barnes teaches students about spinning and dyeing, she said.

Felting is one of the more popular arts for students to learn for a variety of reasons, she said.

"It is messy. It is wet. It is tactile," Barnes said.

"The funnest part is when you get really messy," said Diela Fields, 10.

As with others in the western part of the world, the art that students are exposed to most often is created by individuals, Barnes said. In contrast, felting usually is done by a community working together.

During the project, the students have learned teamwork and the results have been creative, she said.

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