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April 03, 2007

Stuck in Vermont 16: Clark Derbes and Barnes


I want to go back to 2nd grade again, is that so wrong?   I mean, look at all the fun the 2nd grade classes of Miss Deirdre and Mrs. King at Lawrence Barnes Elementary School in Burlington's Old North End are having! 

With the help of local artist Clark Derbes, the students are making mobiles inspired by their characters, letting their creativity run wild, experimenting with abstract art projects, dancing, rapping and singing, taking fun field trips to fancy schmancy art galleries and playing an important role in their community.  Where do I sign up?

Artist Clark Derbes bold and colorful show, "Life in the Slow Lane," decorated the walls of the Sanctuary Artsite at JDK Design in Burlington for most of the month of March.  Clark had already visited the 2nd grade classes at Barnes to collaborate with them on their mobiles.  This time it was the kids turn to visit Clark's art exhibit at JDK.


When you meet someone as youthful, creative and non self-critical as Clark, it is hard not to feel giddy.  The kids are drawn to his flexible face and vivacious personality.  As Angela McGregor of the Shelburne Farms' Sustainable Schools Project says of Clark, "He's got this crazy presence, too.  He's like an enormous kid!" 

We met up with the kids at Barnes and then bussed over to JDK where the 2nd graders asked Clark many questions, imagined what sounds his art might make, danced as though they were painting, got a tour of JDK, went wild running all over the skatepark in the basement and created a piece of abstract art on cardboard with Clark.


After three hours with these high energy kids, I was exhausted but also inspired.  Like Clark, they seem to run on pure adrenaline - they do not waste time second guessing themselves or their art. 

In an earlier Seven Days interview, Clark's artistic "manifesto" was, “To be fast and fearless with my mark making. Seeing the [Jean-Michel] Basquiat retrospective was huge for me — that guy was complete with his fearlessness and RAW with his art . . . Anxiety + weirdness makes good art.

A similar equation can be made for the day I spent with Clark and the Barnes 2nd graders on Wednesday, March 28th.  Clark + kids makes good art.


Clark's JDK exhibit was recycled last week but you can see his art this month at Pursuit Gallery.  Opening reception is April 6th, Friday from 6-10pm (802.862.3883).  Thanks to Angela for organizing this fabulous event AND for letting me know about it and tag along!

Wonderful songs are "Dandelion Wine," "Distance" and "The Drone" by The Cush (MySpace) from New Appreciation for Sunshine.




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As the mother of the artist and an elementary school teacher for 26 years, I loved both Clark's installation and the second graders' field trip to the gallery.


Thanks Eva! We had so much fun on our adventures in art and community. Please join us anytime! It's extra special to be able to have this kind of fun--and powerful--visual documentation of the amazing things happening at Barnes and beyond!


Wow! 26 years! That is wonderful Caroline! no wonder your son is so great with kids! Thanks for commenting!

And thank YOU Angela for organizing this wonderful Barnes field trip to JDK. It is connections like these that shape kids' futures - seriously, it is amazing community building work that you and Brooke and Deirdre are doing! You can see it is working because the students are so engaged and able to let their creativity flow freely. You all amaze me!

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