Over 50 painted butterfly mobiles dance across the most recent entry into ArtPrize by Pentwater Public Schools.

Art students from grades 7 – 12 created the display, entitled “Kinetic Kaleidoscope!” The exhibit will be featured at ArtPrize 2021 in Grand Rapids from Sept. 16 — Oct. 3, and can be viewed online at https://www.artprize.org/71046. The group is raising funds by selling T-shirts to support this project through the schools’ website for $10.

Kinetic Kaleidoscope! will be on view at Brush Studio, located at 50 Louis St. NW, in downtown Grand Rapids. While student collaborative projects are encouraged by ArtPrize and may be exhibited at the event, they are not eligible to compete for awards. Hopefully, however, a number of local residents will view the incredible presentation and vote for it as their favorite.

According to K-12 art teacher Carrie Jeruzal, the display was inspired by a school trip. “The Spanish teacher, Andrea Gallie, and I take kids on school trips focused on Spanish or Mexican culture, and we took a trip to Costa Rica with its beautiful lush rainforests and butterflies everywhere. But we didn’t just focus on Costa Rica – students could pick their own theme.” Inspiration for the butterflies came from multiple sources, including Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party,” the butterfly ecology of Michigan, Costa Rica and Mexico and “Big Idea” personal themes. Younger classes focused on the scientific aspects, making them look like real butterflies, while some of the older students had more of an abstract symbolic design.

For example, one student chose the theme of becoming or transformation. She graduated last year and was going on to a career in a medical field, so she chose a lot of medical imagery such as emerging from the pandemic. Another butterfly design is based on strength and fragility, while still another depicts life and death with one side of the butterfly dark and the other light and cheerful.

“There are over 50 butterflies, and each artist has written their signature on them,” Jeruzal reports. “The generous people at the Pentwater Artisan Center took the time to cut the wooden pieces for us, and the kids painted them with acrylic paint and then had to string them together with fish line and metal washers for weighted balance and figure out the engineering piece to hang them together. Each butterfly sculpture flaps its wings when a breeze blows by or when the weighted drop is gently pulled.”

“It took about three weeks to do each piece,” she continues. “We had some students who were fully online and working at home due to Covid, while some were in-person. We had kids who were consistently in quarantine or online, so we had to be creative with hybrid teaching.” After ArtPrize, each butterfly will be returned to the student who created it to keep.

The butterflies have been made over the last year, so some of the artists have graduated and some are not in art this year. However, on Sept. 30, Jeruzal will be taking current students on a planned field trip to ArtPrize to see the installation at Brush Studios, a trip made possible by an ArtPrize transportation grant. The venue is an old brick building with high ceilings and big windows, so while ArtPrize is having many exhibits outdoors because of Covid, Jeruzal says, “Ours is inside, but the building has big windows so the display can be seen from outside.” While the students are at Brush Studios, the owner, Carrie Zimdar, is going to be using a mini-grant to do a pour painting project with them.