Visiting artist Mike Michaud allowed King Philip sixth graders to paint his car, and spent several days working with the students through a grant from the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools.
By Ronni Newton
Artist Mike Michaud’s car is newly-painted, and for the next several months he will be proudly driving around in a 2007 Honda Civic bearing the artwork of Stacey Grindle’s King Philip sixth-grade art students.
Michaud, aka “Mijumi,” spent several days at King Philip Middle School this week inspiring students’ creativity – in the style he calls “organized chaos” – including allowing them to paint the car he drives every day.
The project was funded by the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools “Dr. Robert & Gladys Dunn Grant,” with the goal of inspiring the students in Mijumi’s “style of mark making and patterns while connecting to culture and heritage,” using everyday and found objects in their art, including as painting materials.
Michaud said he has painted his car – which started out a coppery color – several times, and once wrapped it with duct tape, but this is the first time he has allowed anyone else to do it. He covered the car with white exterior house paint and even spray-painted the wheels to create the canvas for the students before he arrived at King Philip.
On Monday, all of the sixth-graders who have art during this rotation – about 125 students – had a chance to write or draw on Michaud’s Honda with Sharpie oil markers, brainstorming for some of the art they would create in the classroom on Tuesday.
“I basically said, ‘This is your sketchbook,'” said Michaud. But as the art car project progressed, he decided that he didn’t want words and asked the students to use just images or logos. He outlined some of his favorites, including a cat and a horse. He said he doesn’t plan to repaint the car until next April.
“My personal goal is to show them they can use anything as artwork, anything as a paintbrush,” Michaud said.
On Tuesday he worked with the students inside the classroom, on canvases that Grindle said will ultimately be joined together in a giant, eclectic, industrial-style mural and displayed somewhere in the school, perhaps the cafeteria.
In one class Michaud demonstrated how to use things like cans, washers, ketchup bottles to create faces. “You can create different shapes for the heads, use nails to create hair,” he told the students.
Grindle said that each class period did a different type of project – trees, patterns, portraits. She said she will consult Michaud when the canvases are ready to be joined.
Grindle said that she was introduced to Michaud’s work when she acquired a piece in a scavenger hunt in Enfield, where they both live. The piece came with a caveat to pay it forward, which she did.
She then became a fan, following Mijumi’s social media accounts, and applied for the grant to bring him to her classes.
“The style lends itself to students. To show them art can be messy and it doesn’t have to be with a paintbrush,” Grindle said. “It seemed a natural fit to write a grant and I especially liked the idea of the art car.”
She said that she loves that Michaud respects the students’ work enough that he will keep it on his car.
Grindle said the students really enjoyed the project, and it allowed them to escape the structure of regular classroom instruction. “It allows them to be fully creative. Every student walked away with something.”
She said that she thinks it’s important to introduce the students to a contemporary working artist, who makes a living from his art.
“I really like doing these cool projects,” one girl said as she put the finishing touches on the hair of her portrait. “It’s really fun, and we can be creative.”
For more information about the artist, visit his website. .
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