Creative minds at work

Remember Bert, the street artist in Mary Poppins, who captured the imagination of kids with his chalk drawings in the well-known children’s movie?

Kyrene students not only got to see this form of live art but drew their own sidewalk paintings during an Art Masterpiece program at Waggoner Elementary and Kyrene Middle schools.

For the fourth consecutive year, Melanie Stimell Van Latum, master artist specializing in street artwork, visited students at the adjacent campuses to demonstrate a form of art dating back to the Renaissance period in Italy.

At the center of one of Waggoner’s basketball courts, Stimell Van Latum created a 3-D street painting as a template for students who then were able to create their own chalk pastel paintings on designated squares marked with tape.

The pastels are environmentally friendly and wash off with water.

“I’ve been teaching it for seven years,” Stimell Van Latum said. “I sort of discovered it accidentally; after working for the animated comedy series South Park for eight years, I started street painting on the summer hiatus, and instantly fell in love with it.”

Stimell Van Latum is currently the only woman to receive the title of “maestro madonnara” (master street painter) in both Italy and Germany.

Holly Schineller, Kyrene parent and art masterpiece coordinator, came up with the sidewalk-painting opportunity and has kept it going. “It was four years ago when I took a workshop with Melanie,” Schineller said. “For three years we’ve done this project with Waggoner, and this year we were able to bring in KMS students.”

Each year, a creative framework is chosen. This time it was “Connections,” Schineller said.

“This year’s theme was a little difficult for them,” she noted.

“But I’d rather have them say, ‘I don’t get that.’ It lets them be creative and develop their own ideas – you don’t know what will plant the seed for them.”

Students worked on a variety of sketches, one focusing on the social networking Web sites Skype and Facebook.

“The kids love it,” Stimell Van Latum said.

“They can be really free and creative.”