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Hammer: Kids send ecological message with Children's Board artwork

Tribune correspondent
Published: July 11, 2013 Updated: July 11, 2013 at 12:05 PM
The tree, meadow and clouds above are all made from recycled materials. The "forest" was created by children aged 6 to 12 in the Community Stepping Stones program. It is on display in the lobby of the Children's Board in Ybor City. ESTHER HAMMER

Sensitivity to the earth's ecology is the theme of an exhibit opening Tuesday at the Children's Board in Ybor City. Called "THINK eARTh," the exhibit features an imaginative fairylike forest of trees, meadows and critters, all created by 6- to 12-year-old children at the Tampa Housing Authority. And everything was made from recycled materials.In the title, "eARTh" is spelled the way it is to emphasize the word "art" in the middle of it, explained Sigrid Tidmore, executive director of Community Stepping Stones, a nonprofit organization that worked with the children to create the forest."And earth without art is 'eh,'" Tidmore added. "The children were getting stories about why we recycle and what can be recycled. We were trying to teach them to think about stuff before they throw it away."When Tidmore sent out lists of materials needed to various corporations around Tampa, a lot of crushed soda cans came in."They turned the soda cans into monsters," Tidmore said. "Then they put them on clothes hangers and hung them up so they're flying monsters. They're learning to see that empty tin cans can have another use."The centerpiece of the exhibit, which occupies the lobby and vestibule at the Children's Board, is a 10-foot-tall tree."The children took these huge plastic bottles and stacked them up and then covered the whole thing with plaster of Paris and painted it brown," Tidmore explained. "The limbs of the tree are molds of each child's arm, down to the fingers."There are strange-looking "insects" hanging from the tree , and the "leaves" bear messages like "love" and "grow."Old CDs and LPs painted with bright neon colors played a big part in creating the meadow under the tree ."We call it the Garden of Remembered Music," Tidmore said.Mushrooms were created out of cork, and the clouds behind the tree from old cotton batting. Like all good clouds, they have a silver lining, also made from CDs."People come in and just stare and stare and stare," Tidmore said. "It's a pretty impressive piece, and it's just beautiful.""Think eARTh," the forest, is up through October. The public can drop in and see it anytime during regular hours. Or, come to the free opening reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday and meet the new director of the Children's Board, Kelley Parris.The Children's Board is at 1002 Palm Ave. in Ybor City. For more information, go to Esther Hammer can be reached at [email protected]