When her name was called, Lily Michel got a “Huh? You mean me?” look on her face.
She’d just heard that her artistic submission was chosen as a winner in ArtSpark Goes to School, a local program that invites high school students to create art that will be placed on 20 EPB utility boxes from the North Shore to Southside.
Even with her winning certificate in hand, Lily was more concerned that another winner, classmate Kemberly Delgadillo, was not at the ceremony where the five winners were announced.
“Where’s Kimberly? She should be here,” Lily said as people walked up to congratulate her.
For the second year, the UTC Southeast Center for the Education in the Arts (SCEA)and the Challenger STEM Learning Center worked with EPB on the program. Using size parameters from EPB, students from Hixson and Howard high schools and Chattanooga School for the Creative Arts submitted work that included drawings, computer-generated graphics and watercolor, among other mediums.
“They’re showing their work in public, and it’s going to be seen by thousands of people,” said Chad Burnette, art teacher at CCA. “It’s a big deal for them. It takes them to the next level. We do art shows at the school, but it’s not really the same thing.”
A sophomore at CCA, Lily used colored pencils and markers to create a highly-detailed display of goldfish swimming through an environment of clouds and around a purple-centered circle.
“I love art,” she said. “It’s one of the greatest things I can think of in the world. I like doing art with my friends, too.”
The students’ winning art will be enlarged, printed on weather-resistant material and placed on large EPB electric boxes that sit near the street as well as the smaller ones—“about the size of one-third of a refrigerator” near buildings—said Elizabeth Hammitt, director of environmental stewardship and community at EPB.
While the River City Co. also has an ArtSpark program using professional artists, EPB wanted high school students involved.
“Our mission is to improve the quality of life for the people we serve, and one of our major focus areas is the public schools,” Hammitt said. “I heard SCEA was the place to go if you needed a curriculum, and it was a fantastic partnership right off the bat.”
After being approached by Hammitt, staff at SCEA jumped at the chance to be part of the program.
Joel Baxley, director of visual art education at SCEA, created a curriculum for teachers at the three schools to follow, then let them make specific classroom decisions from there.
“I had to come up with a lesson that could work for everybody,” he said. “I tried to make it rough and loose enough for the individual teachers to make choices.”
The program also integrated the STEM Learning Center into the plan, bringing in elements of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“We taught things about the electric utility system and involved math for the dimensions of the box,” Hammitt said.
Along with simply making art, ArtSpark Goes to School hopes to teach students the ins and outs of being a professional artist, Hammitt said. It’s not a case of only making the art that you want to make; sometimes it’s a case of making the art that the client wants.
“Both of our organizations wanted to give students a unique experience that mirrored the professional artist’s experience, what is it actually like if you wanted to choose art as a career.”
That’s the career that Lily hopes to pursue; she’s just not sure which type of art she wants to make. But she’s sketched out a rough idea:
“I think to do something that requires me to be creative in some form.”