When Horses Roamed at Travis

A few days ago I found images from a sculpture project my teaching colleague Skipper Bennett and I did with our 5th graders in 2009. Time flies. Our student artists made a herd of found wood horses based on the work of sculptor Deborah Butterfield. Today I look at this project as an old friend that I found again by chance and would like you to meet now.

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Hina 1990-91 Deborah Butterfield, American, born 1949 Unique Bronze 80 x 112 x 28 inches

What struck me as I looked at this project now is how often artists find their inspiration in nature’s left-overs or in cast-offs from other processes. Somehow the artistic mind is able to put the random pieces of our visual world into their unique art, much like writers take random thoughts and build their writing into a cohesive whole. Small artistic world isn’t it?

Skipper and I had a great process for this project, from the original seed of the idea, which came from another teacher, Mary Fields, showing us Deborah Butterfield’s work, all the way through the finished project.

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Trigger in Front of School

We started with a field trip to Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth. Their education department worked with us to highlight some wonderful equine artworks on the trip.

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We took a walking tour to view equine statues in the museum complex area. This included statues in front of the Will Rogers Memorial Center and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

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At the national Cowgirl Museum and hall of Fame.

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Finally a stop at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, to take in Butterfield’s horse. It was an amazing experience.

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A teachable moment with Mr. Bennett and Butterfield’s sculpture.
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A hands-on experience with the art – priceless.

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Next the students toured the Bryant Art Foundry in Azle, Texas, where our kids saw the steps of creating a metal sculpture.  It is an invaluable part of any art form, learning the process of how things are really produced. The people at the foundry could not have been nicer or more willing to share with our students. Remarkable people.

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A connection was made.

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Back at school we had a studio space to work in (a portable building), because this was messy work.

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The wood was procured from the local land fill. Recycling at its best

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It was a challenge to get our students to see the bone structure of the horse and how the wood suggests where it should be joined.

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wood Joint

We made maquettes of the horses we were about to build to teach the students the basics of combining wood shapes.

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Still when you are asked to make a horse, then confronted with a pile of branches and a spool of wire, it can be a daunting moment for a 5th grader!

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We forged ahead and after weeks of work and a few thousand wire cuts, the horses were transported from the studio to the front of our school campus and staked and wired into the ground.

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Loaded up for installation.

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This was a special group of art students and you can see their talent and effort in their work.

The Travis Herd. Hope you enjoy their work as much as we did. The most fun I’ve had with stick horses since I was a kid!

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13 thoughts on “When Horses Roamed at Travis

  1. You and Skipper always do an amazing job and so do the kids. I LOVE this! In the past three years, I have seen many wonderful works come out of the Travis art department. I am very excited to see the next “project” come to life!!

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  2. I love this! I’ve made structures like your horses but made them all into arbors. Now, it’s spring and wood is sappy and pliable and I want to get outside and do some experimenting with other shapes. Thanks for teaching and writing and teaching. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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