My school is located a few blocks from the coast, so naturally people in the area turn to the ocean for food, work, and play. The location also brings in tourism and events such as large-scale art shows, surf compositions, and concerts. With this in mind, I coordinated a partnership with my school and the best-known surf and skate shop in the area, Wave Riding Vehicles (WRV). For this project, I wanted a spot in the local community where students could display their work and relate to the culture, and where there would be a diverse audience.
Acrylic-painted surfboards from our eighth-grade collaboration.
The shop is also located in the ViBe District, a creative hub full of artists, restaurants, an art museum, and shops in Virginia Beach. For this project, I wanted a spot in the local community where students could display their work and relate to the culture, and where there would be a diverse audience.
The partnership with WRV was fantastic! The shop agreed to donate surfboards to the school and host an art show at their venue during one of the advertised First Fridays Art Events hosted by the ViBe District. Not only would we have beautiful alternative surfaces to paint on, we would also have a lovely space to showcase student work that would undoubtedly draw a large crowd. I was thrilled that this project would extend beyond the art room and provide students with an amazing community collaboration.
Students were placed in small groups and challenged to incorporate a 2D technique, color scheme, and visual symbol from our community into the design of their surfboard painting. Contemporary artists such as Heather Brown, Drew Brophy, Andy Davis, and Jay Alders were introduced to students for inspiration and insight into the mind and culture of a surf artist.
Students worked together to come up with solutions for how to incorporate all the necessary elements into one artwork while also allowing for the unusual shape. Should they include fins or paint the other side? Should they paint on top of the traction pad or use a craft knife to remove it? During studio time, we played music by Donavon Frankenreiter and Jack Johnson, which gave students a full surf experience as they worked.
We worked on this project at the end of the school year, so it was a culmination of everything students learned throughout the year—2D design, 3D properties, and color theory. Students had already worked with a wide range of media and techniques, so this project became an open-ended design challenge that prompted them to apply what they had recently learned.
Painting and Production
Students put on masks, grabbed their boards, and walked to the football field outside. They spray-painted a base color on their boards to eliminate the white negative space and cover the large-surface area quickly. Then it was back to the studio.
Thumbnail sketches were designed and critiqued, preliminary sketches were drawn on the boards, and the painting began! Students worked together as they shared color mixing advice, drawing tips and techniques, and ideas for low-relief elements.
As students worked, we discussed selling the surfboard paintings after the exhibition. Since they were collaborative works of art, there wasn’t a single claim to the work, so selling the art seemed to make sense. Then the discussion turned to what we would do with the profits. Students discussed buying supplies for the art program or donating the money. The class decided on donation and chose Children’s Hospital for the King’s Daughters (CHKD), located nearby in Norfolk, Virginia.
Once the boards were complete, students developed artist statements that explained the collaborative process and the inspiration and techniques that were used in the designs. The boards were displayed at WRV and a show date was set during the ViBe District’s First Fridays event.
On the night of the event, community members came out to view students’ artwork, speak with the artists, and purchase the boards. We kept the boards on display until the next week when community members came back to pick up their purchases.
Watching students use the language of the discipline as they discussed their art process to local and visiting community members was truly a magical experience. I was incredibly proud of students, and they enjoyed being immersed in the art scene and taking ownership and pride over their collaborative designs. Upon completion of the project, students sold every surfboard and raised $1,000 for CHKD.
This collaboration gave students a sense of pride in their community and allowed them to advocate for the arts and make a charitable donation. Students were proud of themselves, their successful collaboration, and the uniquely painted surfboards.
Art teachers encourage students to develop visual and digital literacy skills. Young students learn about Froebel’s Gifts and participate in a series of scaffolded lessons, elementary students explore the concept of unity in art-making and photograph compositional designs, middle-school students use surprising materials to construct hyperrealistic food items, and high-school students create imaginative Doodle Art inspired compositions.