Smile Politely

Weathering the Elements

From now until May 1st, the Urbana City Building (400 S. Vine Street) and the Urbana Free Library (210 W. Green Street) will feature artwork designed by students at Wiley Elementary School, the current Artists of the Corridor. The artwork was encouraged and made possible by the school’s art teacher, Rusty Clevenger.

The exhibit is divided into four different sections, each corresponding to a natural element: Earth, Fire, Water, and Air. Third graders from Wiley Elementary each contributed a sketch of a costume design based on one of these elements, as well as a photo of their finished products. Most of the students are shown modelling their masks and costumes themselves, in front of a background that matches with the elemental theme that they are a part of; others show the mask on its own.

As I approached the Fire section, I saw photos of students posing in front of a (simulated) wave of flames. A particular design-and-title pairing caught my eye and made me smile: a student named Shaniyah, who incorporated her name into the title of her piece, “The ShaCandles” (right). Her sketch features a girl, presumably herself, wearing a coordinating shirt and hat set. Donning a red and orange color scheme, the shoulders of the top showcase candles as their distinguishing feature. The hat shares the same color patterns and is shaped like a cake, also topped off with a trio of candles in the center and a singular candle on each side of the hat’s rim.

Moving on to the Water section, where students appeared to be posing underneath a body of water, the design that stood out to me first was “Boat River,” created by a student named Lanajha. Straying from the other pieces I’ve seen so far, Lanajha puts a stream of water, accompanied by three boats, directly in the middle of her mask, in between its two eyes. A person’s head in the second boat looks like it could double as the nose for the figure.

A student named Brianne also had a unique take on the costume design, including the first mask I saw with no eyes. Rather, where the facial features would normally be, I found a large snowflake. Her piece is titled “Winter Paradise” (right), and she poses with her arms making an x-shape, mimicking the appearance of her costume’s hat.

Lastly, I came to the Air section, where I saw lots of wind and tornado designs. Blue and purple are the main color scheme choice for this section’s designs, and the students showcase their costumes while floating in a cluster of clouds. Similar to Shaniyah’s “The ShaCandles,” a student named Shyquan designed a mask called “ShyKite.” The facial expression on the mask suggests that the name is not only a play on the artist’s name, but also in fact a portrayal of the kite’s personality.

Another design I loved from this section was one by a student named Nora. Deviating from the more abstract and unusual-looking masks, Nora’s design features an owl and is suitably titled, “I Love Owls”.

“Elements” by Wiley Elementary is free, open to the public, and will be on display in the City Building lobby and the Urbana Free Library through May 1st.

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