Kid Stuff

Art That Moves

CV Montessori Charter School opens doors for ‘kinetic sculptor,’ public

Bailey Berg |

A kinetic sculpture by Jeffrey Zachmann, more of which will be on display for the first art show open to the public at Chippewa Valley Montessori Charter School.

    In the last decade, Eau Claire elementary schools have seen a rapid decrease in art education, due to both budget cuts and time constraints. Students have gone from having a couple art classes a week to a single 45-minute lesson once a week. The Chippewa Valley Montessori Charter School is working to combat that.

Parent Jeremy Harrison and teacher Melissa Kleven started an artist-of-the-month program in hopes of inspiring children to create and better appreciate art. Featuring a different art style each month, Montessori students have seen the likes of found object sculptor Steve Bateman, potter Tiffany Bailey, illustrator/painter Ned Gannon, and colored pencil/watercolor painter Alan Servoss.

While the program has been going on since January of last year, this March marks the first time that parents and community members will be encouraged to come in and view the artwork. An art exhibition inside a school is unique in and of itself, but this even will also serve as an open house for people new to the Montessori concept.

To kick off this new program, they’ve invited incredible kinetic sculpture artist Jeffrey Zachmann. Now when you think of sculpture, your mind may conjure up images of a chiseled marble figure, a stone bust, maybe a bronze statue. But these pieces defy expectations, and are featured in museums around the globe.

The sculptures are made of delicately curved sections of wrought metal, joined together in movable parts, that are driven by both motors and gravity. A dozen or so small marbles chase each other as they weave through and around the piece along narrow metal tracks, pulling levers and spinning metal pinwheels as they move on their ceaseless path. “As people watch, they are drawn in and begin to interact with the piece, becoming part of the sculpture themselves. I never tire of seeing this transformation,” he said. “I think it must be some primordial reaction to motion that draws the crowds. It grabs their attention and pulls them in.”

    The general idea to bring artists into the classroom was spawned during the last academic school year, when Harrison’s son was in Kleven’s kindergarten class. The duo devised a plan to help the students learn a little more about art.

“A big part of why we do this is because as the kids get older, they tend to have a different attitude about art. When you’re four, everybody is an artist, but as they get older, they make a decision about whether they are or aren’t based on their abilities, so we just want them to see so many different things, so that they know they’re all artists on some level,” Kleven explained.

They started with parents of students and slowly branched out further into the community, seeking artists of different mediums and asking them to share not only their art, but their passion as well.

“We’ve had about 15 artists now, and the line we consistently hear is that it’s practice, that it’s dedication, and a consistency of really working at it. They say, ‘It took a lot to be where I’m at, and I’m still striving to be better.’ It’s been a great message for the children to hear,” Harrison explained.

The presentations vary as much as the art styles. Some have brought all of their supplies, from small tools to pottery wheels, while others have brought pictures to detail the process. “We’re interested in all the behind the scenes stuff,” Harrison explained. “Not just the tools, but how they think it through. Not just the finished work, but what it takes, what is the process that goes along with it. We try to make the experience as interactive as possible.”

“What we like to do at Montessori is to treat each child as an individual.” Kleven added. “If one child is all it takes to be inspired by someone here, we can then give them the tools they need, to go ahead and try it in the classroom.”

Chippewa Valley Montessori Charter School Presents Jeffrey Zachmann • March 3 • 400 Cameron St., Eau Claire • 6-8pm • FREE • all ages