Edison Students Create a Living Painting with Art for the Sky

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Art for Sky picture by Daniel Dancer

On Wednesday, April 13th, Edison elementary participated in “Art for the Sky” a giant living painting made by the entire 500 count student body and some staff on the grass. The activity was part of a three day art/STEM experience presented by aerial artist and educator, Daniel Dancer, in which the students crowded together into a 80×60 ft lightbulb outline, in honor of their school.

Photo by Ashley Erikson

Dancer has worked across the world over the last two decades to create the living paintings and has completed over 400 projects in 44 states and eight counties.  As part of the Art for the Sky experience, Dancer provides a virtual assembly and teaches kids about looking at the whole picture rather than the individual parts and something he terms “skysight.” “Skysight is about learning to see through the eyes of the Earth, through the eyes of future generations, through the eyes of everything and making decisions based on the whole,” explains Dancer.

Photo by Ashley Erikson

The virtual assembly was broadcasted to every classroom days prior to the activity and showed students what they were going to be creating and building together as a united school community. It also focused on the importance of taking care of the earth and how all living things are interconnected. “It brought tears to my eyes watching my second-grade class take in this information and then react in such a caring and exciting way,” said Edison teacher, Debbie Riggs. “What an unforgettable experience. I personally have never participated in such an amazing art project.” 

Principal Laura Flosi with aerial artist, Daniel Dancer. Photo by Ashley Erikson.

Every student wore a white shirt with blue jeans and crouched inside the outline placed on the grass which was made from black wood chips. A drone camera was sent into the sky to capture the image of the light bulb aerial art. Students then switched into a yellow shirt to simulate the light bulb being turned on, with 13 students dressed in all yellow aligned around the bulb to emulate its shine. “I really didn’t have my mind wrapped around it until this morning!  It was magical and much smoother then I thought,” said Edison Principal, Laura Flosi. “I think the students learned a lot about not only art but our earth and carbon foot-printing.  It was another type of art to expose our students to.”

Photo by Ashley Erikson

Next to the lightbulb, a number 421 can be seen. In the beginning of Dancer’s projects he wanted to bring awareness to carbon in our atmosphere and started with the number 350 in his pictures to represent 350 parts per million of carbon as the safe level of CO2 in our atmosphere. “In 2012 I started putting the actual CO2 ppm number in many of my images as a way to track the planets rising ‘temperature’ so to speak, through art,” said Dancer. In the ten years of tracking, the number has risen to 420.8, which he represented with the 421 in Edison’s picture. “The last time the CO2 level was this high it was a much warmer, much different kind of planet. The seas were 80 ft higher, there were no humans on the planet, and crocodiles were swimming in the arctic,” adds Dancer.

Brenda Etterbeek, the Art Wheel volunteer chair at Edison, worked to bring the collaboration to the school and wrote a grant for the experience to the Burbank Arts and Education Foundation in which they were awarded $3800.  Dancer was flown out from Oregon to put together Art for the Sky and teach the kids about about seeing art from a new perspective. “Watching the project come together held a lot of emotions for me,” said Etterbeek. “I was so excited for our students and teachers to work together to create this beautiful memory.”  

Drone being operated by Randy Flosi. Photo by Ashley Erikson

Due to wind on Tuesday and the drone not being able to fly under those conditions, the aerial event was moved to Wednesday which made schedules difficult between state testing and curriculum schedules. Curriculum Specialist, Tracy Shah, worked hard to rework the schedule for Wednesday and the drone and camera were operated by the help of Randy Flosi.

The event went very smoothly as staff helped line up the students by grade and file them shoulder to shoulder into the lightbulb. The entire experience took under an hour and Burbank  School Superintendent, Matt Hill, and Burbank School Board President, Charlene Tabet, were in attendance to watch the experience take place. “The kids were all so excited to be a part of a living art piece. It was so fun to watch them file out of the school and find a spot within the light bulb outline,” said Tabet. “It was powerful to see the entire school participate in this amazing art project,” added Dr. Hill. 

Daniel Dancer, Brenda Etterbeek, Laura Flosi, Matt Hill, and Charlene Tabet waving to the drone. Photo by Ashley Erikson.

For more on Daniel Dancer and his Art for the Sky projects visit his website at www.artforthesky.com.