COMMUNITY • BY STEPHEN WALDRON
“We have been treating the sky as a sewer for too long,” Daniel Dancer said to the children of Oak View Elementary School during an assembly, “and it’s coming back to haunt us.”
This is the inspiration for the “Art for the Sky” project, where Dancer visits schools to create outdoor artwork with recycled materials.
The “flames” coming out of the mouth of the dragon design get ready for the “Art for the Sky” photo shoot at Oak View Elementary School on Oct. 30.
Students gathered at the assembly on Oct. 31 to see a picture of “A Dragon’s Peace,” a large black dragon with a blue peace sign, inspired by the school’s mascot.
Earlier in the week, Dancer used mulch to draw a large outline of the design in a field behind the school.
Black and blue-jeans
On Oct. 30, students and teachers wore all black and stood inside the outline to make the design for the photo shoot.
Over 200 pairs of blue jeans were also donated by the community to make up the peace sign.
Once everything was in place, Dancer was lifted 80 feet into the air by a firetruck and took a picture of the design.
Principal Peggy Salazar of Oak View Elementary School uses a megaphone to organize students before the “Art for the Sky” photo shoot in Silver Spring on Oct. 30.
Dancer unveiled this picture at the final assembly, to gasps and applause from the audience. (photo at end of article)
“That’s me!” said a third grader, craning his neck to get a closer look. “That’s so cool!”
After the reveal, Dancer performed an original song called “Wings to Fly” as the kids sang along, about the need to care for the environment.
Inspired by flight
Dancer is an artist based in Oregon, but has been traveling the world for 12 years with this project, designed to use art to inspire children to improve the environment.
He had been working with environmental art before this project, but the sky has been a lifelong interest.
“Ever since I was young,” Dancer said, “I was fascinated with flight.”
Dancer said that his father was a pilot in World War II, which sparked his interest in getting into the sky.
Artist Daniel Dancer prepares for liftoff in a firetruck as students get into formation for the “Art for the Sky” project at Oak View Elementary School on Oct. 30.
“Art for the Sky” has taken Dancer all over the world, to 31 states and seven countries, including Australia, the Netherlands, and the Dominican Republic.
Oak View principal Peggy Salazar said that she wanted to bring the project to her school to change the way the students view the world around them.
“We want the kids to get used to the idea that they’re a small part of a bigger area.” Salazar said.
The project is also focused on making the students part of the artwork, and Salazar said that 375 kids made up the Oak View dragon in Dancer’s piece.
The artwork is meant to be temporary, and the piece was taken apart and the field cleaned almost immediately after the photo shoot.
Dancer said that weather is usually the only challenge with his work, but it was not an issue at Oak View as the school had a surprisingly warm October day for the photo shoot.
Daniel Dancer performs an original song, “Wings to Fly,” with students during an assembly at Oak View Elementary School on Oct. 31. The assembly was the finale of Dancer’s “Art for the Sky” project at the school.
Salazar said that Dancer’s visit cost $2600, which was raised through donations to the school.
The costs were also offset by DVD sales of a video Dancer produced, documenting his week at Oak View.
In the video, Dancer made a slideshow of students taking part in the project, and shot footage of nearby Sligo Creek.
Dancer hopes that with this project, he can inspire future generations to change the way they perceive the world around them.
He refers to this view of the world as “Sky-Sight,” and hopes that it will lead children to take an active role in caring for their environment.
“When we can see from the sky, we can see everything fits together,” Dancer said, “and that’s where our most creative solutions live.”
Art teacher Sarah McCarron worked with Dancer once he arrived at the school, and thought the project was a major success.
“I think our kids loved it.” McCarron said. “It was great.”
Dancer said that the ultimate goal for “Art for the Sky” is to bring students closer to the environment.
“If they fall in love with nature and the wild at a young age,” Dancer said, “they’ll be more likely to take care of it.”
Students at Oak View Elementary School in Silver Spring crouched together Oct. 30 to form a dragon design for the “Art for the Sky Project.” Photo by Daniel Dancer, project artist.