Midland, ‘Couch’ join for school’s exterior art

       “We understand that we cannot solve most of society's problems through public art programs. Our goals are more modest: to make a difference in a few lives and the few communities we touch; to connect people in a new and vibrant way to their community, and plant seeds for the future.”
       - Concrete Couch website

Midland Elementary student Zaida Castillo carries a painted wood cutout across the playground during the school's art project with Concrete Couch Jan. 7. The cutout is now among nine in all that are attached to the school's Broadway Street fence.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Concrete Couch Director Steve Wood and 10 or so helpers came to Midland Elementary Jan. 7.
       For about four hours, they teamed up with several dozen Midland parents, students and staff, and the results can be seen at the International Baccalaureate (IB) public school's southwest stair entrance and nearby fence along Broadway Street.
       The new 4-by-4, wood-framed “portal” over the stairs sports a handmade sign that says “Welcome to Midland.” The words themselves are made of recycled materials, including wire, bicycle parts and bottle caps.
       Attached to the fence, thanks to sawing and colorful painting endeavors by the volunteers, are nine nearly life-size wood cutouts shaped like playing children.

The hand-made sign for the southwest "portal" to Midland Elementary goes up during the school's workday with Concrete Couch Jan. 7. Steve Wood, director of Concrete Couch, is in the brown hat. Visible at right is one of the nine painted cutouts of children playing that were created that day for the Midland fence along Broadway Street. In the far background are some of the other volunteers, working on additional cutouts.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The exterior-brightening effort, which is tied in with funding from a foundation's multi-year/multi-school grant that includes Midland, may have an encore with Concrete Couch this spring. “We're hoping for other activities this year, possibly making tiles and mosaics,” said Principal Jeremy Cramer.
       Added Wood, “They have lots of options, and with such a motivated group of parents to support it, I'm sure whatever we do will be fun and successful.”
       One goal Jan. 7 was to enhance the school's identity to the community. For the student families who participated, “it gives everyone some ownership, that this is our school,” Cramer said. “When they drive by, they can feel proud of their contributions.”
       Donating wood for the Jan. 7 workday was Murphy Constructors, whose offices are right across the street from the school. Owner Chuck Murphy's son, Kevin Murphy, who has a granddaughter at Midland, was joined by his son, Michael, in some of the construction during the day.
       Concrete Couch is a nonprofit organization that specializes in working with schools and various types of groups in the community, tailoring creative projects to reflect individual ideas and situations.
       Amanda Thompson, the Midland librarian who organized the project, took the initiative based on an upbeat Concrete Couch mural effort she'd been part of when she previously worked at North Middle School. “I thought our Midland community would benefit in a number of ways from a cooperative art project,” she said. These include learning about “repurposing materials into something beautiful and functional” and parents and students “getting to know each other in a fun and cooperative setting.” Also, “as an IB school, we feel that expression of ideas is very important, and this project provided a vehicle for just that.”

Westside Pioneer article