By Joe Jarosz
June 25, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – This fall, students are coming back to Scarritt Elementary School.
No, the former elementary school isn’t reopening. Héctor Casanova, a visiting instructor at the Kansas City Art Institute, is bringing his class to the school’s site to add some art for the neighborhood. And he’s asking for your help with what kind of art the students should create.
Working in conjunction with Kansas City Public Schools and the Kansas City Art Institute, Casanova is following in the footsteps of some of the window dressing projects the Northeast Arts Kansas City completed over the last several years. He and his students will paint the window panels that are currently covering the walls of the closed Scarritt Elementary School, located at 3509 Anderson Ave.
“This will be a large-scale project with the objective of converting the Scarritt Elementary School building back into a visual and artistic landmark for the community,” Casanova said in a flyer to the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association.
Casanova, an artist living and working in the Historic Northeast, worked with the Northeast Arts KC on the window dressing projects and murals along Independence Avenue. That’s where the idea came from, he said. After becoming a teacher with the Art Institute last year, he said he wanted to impose on the students the important social role of artists. After he came up with the idea, he began working with the KCPS, which also wanted to address the graffiti issue with its vacant schools.
“It’s important to work within a community, to help promote a positive change,” Casanova said, adding a problem in the Northeast is the many vacant buildings. “I realized I had about 30 students at my disposal for civic minded art work.”
Before he and his students start the process of designing the artwork that will go on the wooden panels, he wants the community’s input. Casanova is taking the summer months and has set a deadline of Aug. 18, 2014, for community suggestions. He said he’ll use the remainder of June, July and the beginning of August, to meet as many people in the neighborhood as possible.
“It’s important for this to succeed,” Casanova said. “The residents need to feel like this is their project which is why I want to collect as much information from people as possible.”
Suggestions Casanova is making to people he meets include art that depicts history, heritage and dreams and hopes. Examples can be very specific, historical figures or events, or broad like nightlife and wildlife. He said any suggestion is welcome. When school starts, he’ll discuss with his students different design concepts before determining which are the most feasible.
“There are 179 panels on the school,” Casanova said. “There’s a lot of room for ideas.”
Casanova said because of the number of panels available, this isn’t a project he and his students will complete in one swoop. He’s never taken charge of a project of this size before and isn’t sure what the timeline for completion would be. He imagines the panels will likely be transported from the site to the Art Institute, but hopes there will be times when he and his students can work on site.
“Hopefully, we can work on it [the panels] over a couple years and several semesters,” Casanova said. “It’s a project that will take some time.”
He said he and his students will keep the neighborhood updated through the SRNA as the project progresses. Casanova said he’s also met with representatives from the Mattie Rhodes Center to give a presentation on the project to those who frequently attend the center.
“I’m really looking forward to the ideas we’ll get from the community,” Casanova said.
If you have a suggestion you’d like to submit to Casanova, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please submit all suggestions by Aug. 18, 2014.