SHELDON—The commons and cafeteria at Sheldon Middle School have been transformed by sixth-grade art students into a pop art exhibit.
The artwork that lines the perimeter of the ceiling is reminiscent of works by artists like Andy Warhol, who elevated everyday objects to works of art in the 1960s.
As the students eat their lunch, they do so under giant reproduction Twix bars, a painting of a huge blue Doritos bag, and several renditions of Skittles, among other recreations.
The works on display were made by students in Jake Kromminga’s sixth grade art class, and it’s a unit many students anticipate long before they reach sixth grade.
“I knew it because my sisters had to do it when they were in middle school,” sixth-grader Kylie Schnoor said. Her sisters are now in eighth and 10th grade, and she said she was thrilled to be able to do the project after hearing about it. Schnoor chose to draw and paint a Hershey’s milk chocolate bar, approximately 10 times its original size, for his project.
“Hershey’s is my favorite,” she said. “I love chocolate.”
Kromminga said “candy creations” had long been part of the sixth-grade art curriculum, but two years ago when he started teaching middle school after graduating from Dakota University from South to Vermillion, he expanded the unit to include any snack. the wrappers that the students have chosen, not just the candies. It uses unity to teach students about proportions, color matching, and color combinations.
“We put a drawing grid on top of the package after talking about how to use a grid and the grid drawing technique,” he said. Students use the grid to draw, box by box, a much larger version of their packaging.
“I give them big sheets of butcher paper,” Kromminga said. “Some are 4 feet by 4 feet, some are three by three, depending on the size of the package,” he said.
Students then enlarge their wrapper design to fit the butcher paper, “keeping all the proportions correct,” he said.
“Was ranging from very, very small packages to massive packages,” Kromminga said. “The smallest here is 2.5 feet.”
Students then mix and match the paints, trying to match their paints to the colors on their packaging.
Sixth grader Gracilyn Reintsma said Kromminga helped her get the yellow gold from her Twix wrapper perfectly. Beside her, Evalyn DeBoer finished work on her Skittles reproduction, which stretched almost its own length. She also mixed paints to match the Skittles packaging’s iconic rainbow wrapper with help from Kromminga.
“Kids love this unit,” Kromminga said. “I have older students asking to go back and start over; I have 5th graders who ask, ‘When are we going to do this?’ This is one of those legendary projects.
Once the students have completed their packaging designs, Kromminga introduces some color theory, including the concepts of analogous and complementary colors.
“I ask them, ‘Why do these logos use these specific colors? Why blue and orange?’ “, he said.
Kromminga sees unity as a fun way to engage students, but as playful as it is, he sees art as a powerful tool for creating meaning and connection. It’s something he learned from his own art teacher when he was a student.
“My high school art teacher had a big and profound impact on my life, and I knew I wanted to do something similar for other people,” Kromminga said. “That’s why I have remained faithful to the visual arts. I have found this to be the best and most direct way to connect with people. Art is at the heart of every culture; it tells us what is important. And it’s the easiest way to connect with each other.
Some students in her Monday, March 7 class were already moving to a new medium, a new way of making sense. The students lined up as Kromminga handed out pieces of clay from a large block of clay. That’s what he loves about his job.
“I can introduce them to a ton of different things — things they didn’t know before,” he said.