On a recent Thursday after school, more than a dozen kids showed up at Carpenter-Carse Library in Hinesburg. They weren’t there to do homework or research though. They quickly got to work on a month-long project to transform the outside wall with some larger-than-life original artwork.
The kids first gathered inside to eat snacks and read about 20th-century abstract artist Henri Matisse. They put the books away and headed outside. They gathered in a circle and stood back looking at the four large panels covered in color.
Kids in paint-stained oversized t-shirts shouted out color suggestions and ideas.
At the center of the group, local artist Laurel Waters helped the 5- to 11-year-old students narrow their idea down to tree branches with a blue background – the finishing touch to their mural.
The group of youngsters joined the four-week project to paint a mural for the library, an idea the library’s board had been kicking around for over a year.
This spring, library youth programs coordinator Chaya Thanhauser decided to make it a reality.
She reached out to Waters, a Colchester artist who previously lived in Hinesburg and had a studio in Charlotte. Together they worked on a plan to involve children. They decided to look to work by French artist Matisse for inspiration.
“With the love of spring and color coming back to Vermont after a long winter we felt like Matisse would be a good fit,” Waters said.
But this is a library after all, and before anyone opened up paint, the group opened up books.
Hands-on prep came through learning about Matisse’s work with collages. The kids learned about positive and negative space and made their own paper collages.
Then gathering everyone’s ideas, Waters helped design a mural that the students would paint.
“I really like how we got to read the books and be inspired by Matisse,” 11-year-old Annaliesa Fry said. “And he would be proud if he saw it.”
By last week, the mural neared completion. The kids used an abundant variety of color, mixing their own when needed.
“It’s fun trying different colors and seeing the possibilities with the art you can make,” Jasmine Counter, 11, said.
Some of the younger artists had adults along for the afternoon art session. Kathy Newton said her 5-year-old granddaughter, Place, was excited to be the artist instead of just seeing art.
“I’ve been so impressed with how Laurel was able to get these kids to learn and collaborate to do this in four weeks – hour-and-a-half sessions every week,” Newton said. “I taught for 40 years and I can’t believe she accomplished [the lessons and mural] in four weeks.”
Mary Beth Harris was there with her grandson and said she was excited to see so many kids involved with the project. She added that she was thankful for Community Bank’s Hinesburg branch, which funded the art project.
Thanhauser said she didn’t know what to expect at the start. But when the call for little artists went out, there quickly was a waiting list.
Thanhauser remarked on how the children are getting to create something they will see regularly when they visit the library.
This success also has Thanhauser thinking about more possibilities. “This is the biggest art thing we have done by far,” she said.