It’s been ages since I’ve set foot in school and if you told me that someday I would voluntarily want to return, I would not have believed you. That said, a recent visit to Curtis Fundamental Elementary was driven by a desire to experience and document Dunedin Fine Art Center’s Wheels on Wheels program in action. If school had been this much fun when I was a student, they would have had a hard time getting rid of me.
First, an explanation. Yes, we all know the wheels on the bus go round and round but the wheels on this bus put a whole new spin on the concept. How? Why? Well, in an inspired maneuver, the school bus seats have all been removed and replaced with pottery wheels! Each workstation is outfitted with an artistic stool to sit upon, supplies for working with the clay and the trusty pedal for power.
When I arrived and was escorted across the campus to find the bus, two groups of colorfully clothed kids were lined up and ready to take on the world. The first group boarded the bus to start hands-on with the wheels. The second group gathered around DFAC’s Ashley Williams while she offered glimpses into the activities of the day through demonstration and instruction on techniques.
All of the children seemed happy to participate. Not an eyeroll or slacker in the bunch. They were engaged in learning and trying new things—twisting and manipulating the clay seemingly undaunted by the newness of the whole process but also sharply focused on trying to make the shapes “right.” By the end of the Wheels on Wheels session, each child would have fashioned two items from clay. The first, a small cup or bowl and the second…wait for it…a monster!
The savviest “tool” on the bus is DFAC Youth Education Director Todd Still, aka Mr. Todd. He is cool and patient with the students, making his way up and down the aisle over and over again, educating, paying attention, offering assistance and encouragement to each child along the way.
“Everyone gets 15-20 minutes on the wheel,” Mr. Todd explains, “so they really get their hands in the clay.”
At the end of the day and no matter the outcome, every kid will have (gotten their hands dirty) and accomplished something. And beyond the treasured souvenirs to take home, they’ll also have fun memories to keep.
Story and Images by Leslie Joy Ickowitz