Who would have ever guessed that there’s a direct link between coffee and alligators?
Glasgow Middle School’s Talented Art students made the connection in November. Now they’re sharing this discovery with visitors to the Louisiana Art & Science Museum in the installation, “Brilliant Solutions.”
The installation takes a new look at the thousands of coffee stirrers sculptor Jonathan Brilliant used in his installation, “The Red Stick Piece,” last April. The North Carolina artist wove 50,000 seven-inch, rounded-end wooden stirring sticks into an abstract sculpture designed especially for the museum’s Soupcon Gallery.
A watch party took place in June when the museum dismantled the coffee stirrers, then donated them to Glasgow Middle School’s Talented Art Program. That’s when Geeta Dave’s creative cogs began turning.
Dave teaches art in Glasgow’s Talented Art Program, where she pulled together 41 students to create a new installation using the coffee stirrers.
“I believe in recycling, and once a year we do a recycling project,” Dave says.
This recycling effort was more personal than past projects as students were asked to weave coffee sticks into figures representing Baton Rouge’s landmarks, as well as its surrounding environment. This is why a large alligator descending on the Louisiana State Capitol dominates a wall in the Colonnade Gallery.
This is the coffee-alligator connection, which gives way to dragonflies fluttering around Louisiana’s Old State Capitol and plastic spork bugs and lizards crawling around the Irene W. Pennington Planetarium. Look up at the snake crawling the length of the Colonnade Gallery ceiling — he has that coffee connection, too.
“These are all recycled sporks,” Dave says, sifting through a box installation day. “We asked the kids at school to throw their sporks into boxes for our project instead of throwing them away.”
The sporks — combination spoons and forks — were washed, then glued together to form Louisiana’s creepy crawlies. Sporks also form the snake’s head as it bursts through the wall near the planetarium, mouth open, teeth bared.
The Glasgow students putting the show together are excited about finally seeing it come together.
“We’ve been working on it since November, and we’ve all contributed to it together as a class,” says 14-year-old seventh grader Denise Verrett, who is joined by her twin sister, Desiree Verrett, in the installation.
Also working with them are eighth graders Dedunu Herath, 14, and Tasnia Monir, 13; and seventh grader Bing Guan, 13.
“We worked in groups,” Desiree Verrett says.
“And when class would end, the other class would come in and know where to begin,” Monir says.
Though Brilliant created his piece solely by weaving the coffee sticks, the Glasgow students had to glue their pieces in places.
And in the end, though there’s no real connection between coffee and alligators, the project taught the students something new about their surroundings.
“We learned how Baton Rouge is a mixture of nature and man-made landmarks, and how it’s something most people don’t notice,” Guan says. “We hope people will notice it now.”