Assembled Art

February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. This year’s theme "African Americans and the Arts" highlights the many contributions Black Americans have had on the arts, cultural movements and more. 

At Tinkergarten we know that artistic expression and creativity are critical skills—not only for artists or musicians, but also for kids as a way of thinking about and being in the world. Introducing kids to the work of diverse artists helps kids to see the infinite possibilities for how and what they can create and provides models for how they can remain creative throughout their lives.

In honor of this year’s Black History Month, we share this activity inspired by the work and techniques of Noah Purifoy, a visual artist and sculptor and co-founder of the Watts Towers Art Center and the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum. He remains best known for his assemblage works, art that is created by assembling various everyday objects that he had collected. Purifoy spent the last 15 years of his life creating ten acres full of large-scale sculpture made from junked materials on the desert floor. His installation is considered to be one of California’s great art historical wonders. 

As featured in our February Activity Calendar, in this activity, kids take inspiration from Purifoy's work as they assemble found and natural objects into sculptures.

If you do not yet have your free copy of the February Activity Calendar, download it here.

The Guide

Step 1: Get inspired! 

Look at images of Noah Purifoy’s artwork with kids. Ask kids what they notice about the sculptures. What materials do they think he used to create his art? Where do they think he found the pieces? How do they think he connected the pieces together? How does his art make them feel?

Step 2: Collect objects.

Gather objects from around the home that kids can use to assemble their sculptures. Some ideas: recycled containers, bottle tops, corks, wood pieces, and/or cardboard boxes. Then, head outside to gather some natural materials kids can add to their assemblage, such such sticks, pine cones, evergreen sprigs, leaves or flowers.

Take a moment to look at all the pieces together. What shapes, colors and designs do kids see? What do the pieces look like or remind kids of? What can kids imagine with the objects?

Step 3: Assemble!

Offer a sturdy base on which kids can build. If kids would like to simply arrange their objects, you can offer a tabletop, the floor or a flat area outside. If kids would like to glue or tape their pieces together, offer a piece of cardboard, wood slab or a cardboard box as a base.

Gather up all the materials you collected and invite kids to start assembling their sculpture!

Step 4: Support the creative process.

Step back and let kids lead the creative process. If your sculpture topples or they are struggling to arrange the pieces, frame it as a chance to problem solve and try something new. You can say something like, “Oh, your sculpture fell. I wonder how we could make it even stronger/more balanced this time.” As feels supportive, offer materials like tape, string or glue to help attach and secure the objects together.

Step 5: Share your creations.

Take photos and share your creations with friends, making sure to include the name of the artist who inspired them. What a wonderful way to honor Noah Purifoy for his contributions and get friends more curious about creativity! If you do share them publicly, be sure to tag #Tinkergarten. We'd love to cheer on your creative process!

Why is this activity great for kids?

Learning through trial and error and sticking with the task of arranging objects into a sculpture is great practice in persistence. Sticking with the task of building or working with materials develops kids’ capacity for focus and self-control. Sculpture building is also a great way for kids to work on problem solving and STEM learning (e.g. concepts of balance and the effects of gravity). Finally, introducing kids to the work of diverse artists helps kids to see the infinite possibilities for how and what they can create and provides models for how they can remain creative throughout their lives.

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