UNT student uses "Monster Project" to interest kids in art

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 14:59

Monsters are a subject that most children know about – monsters live under the bed, they come out at night, they have lots of arms and eyes. But, art knowledge isn't always as prevalent in a child's life, so to help change that University of North Texas Communication Design senior Katie Johnson started a project using monsters as inspiration.

Now in its third year, Johnson's Monster Project takes drawings from second-graders at Faubion Elementary in Cedar Park, Texas, where her mom is a music teacher, and transforms them into works of art. Friends, coworkers and fellow UNT students help Johnson create artistic interpretations of the monsters that the second-graders give to Johnson during the fall semester. Toward the end of the school year, Johnson visits the children to show them their original drawing next to the artistic interpretation – which is done in a variety of media, from watercolor to computer graphics to metal sculpture.

Johnson got the idea for the project after thinking about the experiences she had in a gifted and talented program while in elementary school – and how those experiences influenced her to study art.

This year, Johnson received 52 monsters and the help of 45 artists who want to share art experiences with children.

"I think that the project is great at inspiring more young kids to be artistic," said Alex Miller, a junior in Communication Design from Southlake, who created her monster interpretation using Photoshop. "I don't think there are strong enough art programs in schools, so if more young kids are interested they'll hopefully beef up art programs."

Russ Connell, a senior from Austin, agreed that the project can inspire children and said it also offers them a broader look at art.

"This can open up kids' minds as to what kind of art can be produced," said Connell, who created a 3-D steel monster based on one of the drawings. "When I was in grade school, I thought art could only be done on paper and canvas. Now that I specialize in metalwork, I realize there's an entire world I never knew existed."

Johnson has each artist write a note to go with their re-interpreted monster that tells the child what the artist liked about the child's monster and gives the child some inspiration. When she presents the monsters to the children, she spends time talking with them and points out what she likes best about their monsters.

"I hope that some of these kids decide to become artists or designers because of this," said Miller. "It challenges them to be more creative. These days kids spend a lot of time in front of screens, so it's really important that they keep an active imagination."

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