By MaryAnn Kohl
Kids of all ages can be inspired by the great masters of art: inspired to create in their own ways; inspired to learn more about art, the masters, and history; inspired to discover; inspired to invent and experiment; inspired to learn more about everything; inspired to dream.
Alexander Calder is an artist that kids easily relate to because his sculptures are playful, colorful, and, well, they are SCULPTURES, and kids love to create sculptures! Here’s some fun information about the great American artist Alexander Calder that you might enjoy sharing with your kiddos.
Alexander Calder, called Sandy by all who knew him, was born in Pennsylvania and came from a very artistic family: his great-grandfather and his father were both sculptors, and his mother was a painter. When Calder was young, he and his sister used to play with toys and gadgets that Calder made. In 1909, when Calder was in the fourth grade, he sculpted a dog and a duck out of sheet brass as Christmas gifts for his parents. The duck was kinetic because it rocked when gently tapped.
When he grew up, he continued to create such things as games, toys, jewelry, sculptures, drawings, paintings, costumes, movie sets, and more. Through his construction of wire mobiles, he became the founder of a new art form–kinetic sculpture, which means "sculpture that moves." He created sculptures in sizes from very small to tremendously large, as well as mobiles (suspended moving sculptures), standing mobiles (anchored moving sculptures), and stabiles (sculptures that do not move). Calder is the most famous kinetic sculptor in the world.
First, show the kids some of his works on the Internet or in a book, or if you are lucky enough, visit his work in person at a museum. Help the kids to take special notice of the wires and see the possibility of movement in his work. Teach them the word kinetic. Even a two-year-old loves new words!
Kinetic Sculptures with Pipe Cleaners
For kids to try their hands at an easy Calder-inspired sculpture, you will need:
* You can see I’m always saying “or try this," "or try that," and "or what do you have on hand.” There are so many options and no right or wrong way to do these creative sculptures. Sometimes the special things you and your kiddos find together will inspire the sculpture to take on new life and design in ways I never thought possible, so have some fun!
What else? Did you ever think of hanging the sculpture upside down so it becomes a kinetic mobile? Consider adding strings or ribbons too! This project is absolutely wide open for creativity and possibilities. In fact, I once saw a child hammer nails into a block of sculpture and then drape yarn from one nail head to another and say, “Look at my Calder!” That could work here too! Or add some golf tees or toothpicks. Or, or, or. . .
I love this kind of project because it is completely dictated by the materials on hand and the willingness of the child to explore.
Here are some kids working with pipe cleaners and Styrofoam to build Calder-inspired sculptures. Mountain View School, Ferndale, WA, 2011.
MaryAnn and a young friend create Calder-inspired sculptures with wire and foam insulation that has been cut into small blocks. North Carolina, May 2011.
This post was contributed by MaryAnn F. Kohl. MaryAnn is the renowned author of over 20 books about art for children. Her books are published both by Gryphon House and by her own company, Bright Ring Publishing. Connect with MaryAnn online on Facebook, Twitter, and her own blog!