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eARTh Lab


We are excited to partner with the Capitol Region Watershed District again on eARTh Lab! The artmaking workshops will focus on getting to know our regional watershed system and how water flows through our landscape. We aim to build knowledge around the environmental and social impact of how we shape our community and interact with the watershed. eARTh Lab comes to Western Sculpture Park in the Central Corridor Neighborhood this summer for a series of free, drop-in environmental art-making workshops that use earth-friendly supplies and processes and relate to the theme Where in the World is Water. eARTh Lab workshops use art to develop skills, promote personal growth, and encourage a new generation of active citizens. Each workshop engages teaching artists, education interns, and wonderful volunteers from the community for sessions that are open to children of all ages. Free snacks are provided as well.

This year’s workshops will be in part with the Wakpa Triennial Art Festival.

Opening planting event: Tuesday, June 13, 2023

When: On Tuesdays at 2:00pm – 4:30pm from July 11th to August 1st

Where: Western Sculpture Park, 387 Marion Street, St. Paul, MN 55103, meet at the rain garden at the center of the park!

If you have a party of more than 10 people, please contact Youa Vang at youa@pubicartstpaul.org at least 3 weeks prior to the eARTh Lab workshop date your group is planning to attend.

COVID-19: Mask wearing is encouraged. Hand sanitizers, wipes, spare disposable masks, and gloves will be available during all workshops.


Please check back for the full list of 2023 workshops.

Workshop activities may be subject to change


About the Artists

Esther Ouray

Esther Ouray has worked and lived as a performing and teaching artist for 40 years. She thrives on community engaged art and theater. She is a mother and grandmother and envisions a just, healthy future for all children.


Lisa Arnold

Lisa Arnold is an artist/activist from Saint Paul who specializes in nature art. Her present passion is painting flower gardens.



W.O.W (Wendell Otis Ward)

I am A MultiArtist I am a community Leader and Connecter,  President of the organization “Feeding The Dream” and A Radio Host at WFNU Frogtown community Radio “A Real Wow show” A panelist For a TV and internet Show on ENNNETWORK Pink Power Panel! And in all I am Human and I LOVE other Humans.

Gita Ghei

Gita Ghei is a soon to be retired metal sculptor specializing in public art and teaching. Her work is centered around the concept of the strength of diversity in people and nature. She works with metal and ephemeral materials, notably candy. She has worked in public school settings in MN for over 20 years with residencies and grants. She teaches art combining science and topics such as plants, water, green energy and collaborates with young people to make public art. She maintains a studio in Minneapolis. Gita recently finished a Certificate Program in Herbal Studies from Minneapolis College. She is embarking on land restoration and becoming a medicinal herb grower for herbalists and naturopaths. Visit Gita on the web at www.stareyeart.com

Winfrey Oenga

Winfrey Oenga is a community artist. They love working within the frogtown community and learning all about protecting and helping the earth through gardening creating art collectively to spread awareness about environmental protection, and exploring sustainability with folks in the neighborhood. They hope to express my love and appreciation for this community through their efforts they are combining art and the environment.


200 years ago, the area that is now Western Sculpture Park was an encampment for fur traders traveling in ox carts from Canada across Minnesota. As homes, businesses, and infrastructure developed the area drew a diverse population of residents – European immigrants, African-American families moving westward from downtown Saint Paul, and today, new immigrants from Asia, Africa, and Central America.



18 years ago, Public Art Saint Paul responded to the initiative of neighborhood residents and artists who sought to transform an underdeveloped and neglected public park into a lively civic gathering space.

Their dream for a safe, beautiful space for children to play neighbors to congregate has become a reality in the Western Sculpture Park we see today.



Introduction to Curriculum

Since the re-designed Western Sculpture Park opened in 1998, Education has been a core part of Public Art Saint Paul’s programming. In 2009 the program entered a new phase with the commission of the Spider Mobile Art Lab by Christopher Lutter-Gardella. The Spider is a result of an effort by PASP with the Summit University Planning Council and a host of community partners in 2006 to assess the conditions of the residential area around the park and recommend strategic steps to promote safety in neighborhood. The effort resulted in recommendations to increase access to educational services, improve the beauty and amenity of streetscapes and open spaces, foster economic development, and weave art into everyday life. We have retired the Spider Mobile as it is no longer functional. Needless to stay, the workshops have been renamed eARTh Labs and continue into the 2019 season!

eARTHlab comes to Western Sculpture Park in the Central Corridor Neighborhood 12 times each summer for a series of free, drop-in environmental artmaking workshops that use earth-friendly supplies and processes and relate to the theme Where in the World is Water. Each workshop engages 2 teaching artists, 2 education interns, and wonderful volunteers from the community for sessions from 10 am to 12:30 pm that is open to children of all ages. A free snack is provided halfway.

eARTH Lab workshops use art to develop skills, promote personal growth, and encourage a new generation of active citizens. Each free session is structured as a self-contained activity so there is no registration or ongoing attendance commitment. This results in exceptionally high participation, with nearly 600 young people attending over the summer of 2015. A season-end awards ceremony is presided over by public officials to celebrate the accomplishments of the participants.

Themes have focused on water quality awareness for the past 3 years. In the years ahead, program themes will expand to include other living systems of the City including food, forests, and infrastructure.

Workshops are produced by Public Art Saint Paul in partnership with Saint Paul Parks and Recreation and a host of education, environmental conservation, and community organizations, including the Capitol Region Watershed District.

The National Recreation and Parks Association Congress points to Western Sculpture Park as a national model of public/private partnership in art education and community building.

Ways We Use Water

Lesson: Planters

By: Eric F. Avery & Esther Ouray

  • Key ideas:
  •   • Water is essential to all life.
  •   • We are not merely individuals; we are part of a whole.
  • Art outcomes:
  •   • Collaboration
  •   • Sponge painting technique
  •   • Creative movement
  • Water outcomes:
  •   • Appreciation and honoring of water
  •   • Understanding our place within the ecosystem in relationship to water
  •   • Making conscious the use of water
  • Materials:
  •   • Clay pots
  •   • Sponges
  •   • Acrylic paint
  •   • Tarp
  •   • Potting soil
  •   • Seeds/plants
  •   • Pitchers
  •   • Water
  •   • Paper plates (not paint containers)
  •   • 5 gallon bucket
  •   • Paint shirts

Preparation: Lie out a tarp and spread out the pots on it. Break sponges into palm-sized pieces. Select a palette of blues and additional accent color and put the paint on paper plates. As part of our design aesthetic we limited the number of colors to maximize contrast: we didn’t want color of the pots to turn out looking like a muddy mess. We also chose paper plates instead of small or deeper containers to allow for communal access to the paints: lots of kids can dip their sponges at the same time. Similarly, we utilized 5-gallon buckets as communal washing stations placed separately from the area where the paints are accessed.

In a separate area we prepared for the post painting planting. Soil was distributed into pitchers. Trays of plants were also set out in this area.

Execution: We began with everyone getting in a circle to introduce the activity and to bring to mind the importance of water. Over the course of the day repeat the word water as much as possible. Everyone gets paint shirts and a sponge.

To initiate the process we used our version of the game “Mother May I?” to engage the group in a collaborative pot painting effort. For instance, to 3 different groups of children: “You may hop on one leg to the paint, choose 1 color, and put paint onto 5 pots.” “You may walk backwards to the paint, dip in blue paint, and put two dabs on every pot.” “You may move in slow motion to the paint, choose your favorite color, and cover one pot with that color.” Know that some children will continue with the games while others will eventually engage in collective painting without the game.

Best techniques for collective sponge painting are to dip the sponge once in the shallow puddle of paint and dab paint onto pots with a light pressing motion, which should leave an imprint of sponge detail. Encourage participants to avoid smearing and excess paint. Complete coverage of each pot is accomplished as the dabbing of participants accumulates: no one pot is painted by one person. In between colors sponges are rinsed in the 5-gallon bucket of water. This accomplishes not only cleaning of the sponges, but also is a tactile experience with water.

Once pots are all covered or nearly covered take a break. During the break, check pots that might be in need of adjustments to their paint. This time will also afford the pots time to dry while the project leaders begin a discussion about the essential need of water for all living things.

With the dry pots moved to the planting area we began transplanting the plants into the clay pots. Once all were planted we commenced a watering ceremony. The projects leader stood up front with pitchers of water and would ask each participant “What is one way that we use water?” Participants respond and the leaders would echo the response and follow it up with “The Water of Life!” and then would water the participants plant.

Lesson: Fisk Mural Project

By: Aaron Marx

  • Key ideas:
  •   • Help kids understand the historical, physiological, and spiritual importance of water in our lives.
  •   • Develop skills using acrylic paint, canvas, and a public art mural apparatus.
  • Art outcomes: 
  •   • Teach color theory, painting technique, and a general appreciation for art.
  •   • Inspire youth to use art as a means of exploring ideas.
  •   • Provide an example of using art to understand science.
  • Water outcomes: 
  •   • Connect youth to the scale of the Mississippi River.
  •   • Share knowledge about Minnesota’s geologic history.
  •   • Provide a means to discuss water quality, conservation, and preservation.
  • Materials:
  •   • Acrylic paint
  •   • Brushes
  •   • Paint containers (paper cups)
  •   • (3) 24″ x 36″ canvas
  •   • (2) saw horses
  •   • 6′ 1×2 board
  •   • Drill
  •   • Screws
  •   • Paint shirts.

Preparation: Harold Fisk’s historic drawings of the geologic shifts of the Mississippi River Delta are the starting point for this exercise. Looking at these drawings could provide students with many opportunities to think and talk about our relationship to the river and how it has change over time. Many artistic opportunities exist within this exploration.

A Fisk drawing was projected and the canvas was pre-drawn with outlines of the Mississippi River. Easily broken down, these drawings were then transported to the site and reassembled.

Execution: The workshop began with a discussion of Fisk’s drawings, how the river has changed over time, and what it must have been like to travel up the river in 1850’s. Then paint was distributed with very little direction of instruction, only to fill in the shapes with color.

We choose to do this project as a one session 3 hour workshop. Using 2 saw horses turned end-to-end for the support system, a 1×2 was mounted across the back side of pre-stretched canvas. For this example, we used (3) 24×36″ canvas, but that could expand to many more.

Teaching art appreciation, best practices, and techniques happened throughout the activity. With that many opportunities presented themselves, to engage youth in conversations about water quality, conservation, and preservation of natural resources.

Lesson: Watercolor

By: Aaron Marx

  • Key ideas:
  •   • Teach the basics of watercolor, including techniques of layering, color mixing, transparency, and abstraction
  •   • Have kids consider the mythological, biological, and spiritual nature of water.
  • Art outcomes:
    • Teach water color techniques (mixing, layering, light, dilution).
    • Inspire youth to use art as a means of exploring ideas.
    • Provide an example of using art to understand science.
  • Water outcomes:
  •   • Use water to directly make art.
  •   • To recognize water as valuable natural resource
  •   • Teach about water systems and water collection.
  •   • Provide a means to discuss water quality, conservation, and preservation.
  • Materials:
  •   • Large sheets of 80lb or greater watercolor paper 30″ x 42″ (Anchor Paper is a good supply source)
  •   • Watercolor sets (10)
  •   • Brushes
  •   • Large cups for water
  •   • Paper towels
  •   • Painter’s tape

Preparation: Set up tables into a square format, tape large sheets of paper to the table, fill cups with water, set up stations for students to share watercolor sets.

Execution: Talk to students about watercolor as an artistic medium, what makes it different from other types of painting, how water allows transparency, the importance of layering, and various wash techniques, and mixing colors on the paper rather than in the sets.

Many themes are available for this workshop, I am particularly interested in abstraction and encouraged students to approach this project through that lens. Other options could be to have them paint the landscape of their surroundings, or another place from an image. For more advanced students, one could talk about atmospheric perspective, and developing composition from a grid.

Physically interacting with water allows the teacher to have discussions about where water comes from, where it goes, and why it matters.


Lesson: Felted Jewelry: Water + Wool

By: Sarah Nassif

  • Key Ideas:
  •   • Water transforms things.
  •   • Wool is a natural fiber (sheep “hair”). It is like a smooth straw covered in fish scales. When it is dry, you can pull it apart and see the individual fibers easily.
  •   • When wool gets wet, the scales open up and interlock with each other, becoming matted and difficult to pull apart. This process is called “felting”.
  •   • Agitating (rolling around) the wool helps the felting progress faster. Felting is a simple fiber art technique that uses water and wool to create soft sculpture
  • Outcomes:
    • Kids will have an introduction to fiber art
    • Kids will recognize water as a change agent

Adults needed: At least 2, extra volunteers are great for helping kids individually.

        • Materials:
          • Tubs for holding warm soapy water (wash basins are good)
          • Hot water supply (thermos with hot water can be mixed with hose water)
          • Felting trays (cookie sheets or similar) with a sheet of small size bubble wrap in the bottom, bumps up
          • Small and large towels for drying hands and mopping up
          • Dye- and scent-free liquid dish soap
        • Preparation: Set up 1 dry table and as many wet tables as needed for the group size.

Dry table: One adult will hand out wool roving to kids. Kids can choose from an array of colors. Hands must be dry when handling the dry wool.
Wet tables: Each table will need a basin of warm water with a drop or two of plain dish soap, felting trays, dry towels as needed.
Finished project area: Have kids write their names on a paper towel or box to place their finished work into. Felted projects can be hard to tell apart after they are finished.

        • Execution: Begin with students in circle to talk about the project theme “Water Transforms Things”.

Ask who knows what a “fiber” is? Point out we have fiber growing on our heads! Our clothes are made of fiber (cotton, wool, synthetic…). Most fibers need to be changed in some way by water to make them into something useful. Water can be used to color fiber, make it softer, cleaner, etc. Felting uses water to change separate fibers into solid “fabric.”

Fiber art is an art form that uses fibers, cloth and techniques like sewing, weaving, knitting and felting to create art works. Art works might be something familiar, like a sweater or rug, or a unique sculpture. (Optional: Show examples)

Sitting in a circle, hand out dry wool roving samples for kids to handle and examine. Ask kids to describe the properties of the dry wool. Point out how there are separate long fibers that can be pulled apart easily. Hand out felted objects and compare with dry wool.Ask kids to describe the properties of the felted wool. How is similar or different to dry wool?Point out how the fibers are matted together into a fabric (felt) and can’t be pulled apart easily.

Demonstrate basic felting by making a ball the size of a large marble. First prepare your wool – begin with small chunk of wool roving twice the size of the desired final size. It’s easier to felt something small than something large. You can use more than one color. “Wake up” the fibers by pulling and fluffing them up well. Layer colors or swirl in.

Wet the wool by creating a balloon shape the size of a cotton ball, and pinch together at the bottom with one hand. Use other hand to drizzle warm soapy water over it. Don’t dunk the wool into the basin.

Agitate the wool and start to roll the wool in your hands as if rolling a ball. Begin with gentle movements and almost no pressure, as if you are petting baby kitten. As the wool begins to felt together, you can roll with more vigor. You can roll it around on the bubble wrap. This takes time! Add drops of soapy water as needed if it dries out.

A few minutes later, as the ball firms up, you can roll it between your hands until the desired hardness is achieved. It can take 10-15 minutes to felt a ball.

Other shapes can be made by rolling a snake, or just playing around. Shapes can be strung together with a tapestry needle and thread.

        • Suggested rules for the project:
        •   1. Adults will provide roving to kids with dry hands (wool begins to felt as soon as it touches water)
        •   2. Use small amounts of water at a time – don’t dunk
        •   3. Put finished project into your box/ on your paper towel with your name on it
        • Project steps for kids:
        •   1. Choose wool colors
        •   2. Wake up fibers, fluff into a shape
        •   3. Using a small amount of soapy water, start felting. Use gentle touch at first.
        •   4. As wool begins to felt, use more pressure. Add water as needed if it dries out.
        •   5. When your project feels as firm as you want, dip in cold water to rinse.
        •   6. Use a needle and thread to string shapes together into necklaces, bracelets, key rings.
        • Project Variation: Flat Felting
        • Flat felting is done by layering flattened bits of wool roving to create a design. Begin with dry roving, fluff out fibers into a flat shape (circle, square, etc.). Lay onto bubble wrap and add soapy water.
          Add bits of wool in different colors to create a design. Massage wool with fingertips to get fibers to mat together. Rub mat around on bubble wrap, flipping a few times. When finished, blot dry with a towel and lay aside to dry.
        • Conversation Starters:
        • These are ideas of impromptu conversations to strike up while kids work on their projects.
        •   • What are some other things water transforms? (e.g. steel turns to rust, sugar dissolves, dirt turns to mud, rocks erode, etc.)
        •   • How do you think felting was discovered? (They say it was wool in the shoes of early people that was wetted and agitated as they walked, becoming felt)
        •   • How is water used to change other fibers? (think about tie-dye, printing processes, creating textures like wrinkles)


Textile Center of Minnesota – has wool roving in the shop in multicolor packs.
https://www.weircrafts.com/ — home spun carded wool is easiest to felt.


Make the Invisible Visible

Lesson: Water Windows

By: Sarah Nassif & Esther Ouray

  • Key ideas:
  •   • Water is all around although sometimes it is “invisible”
  •   • Water moves differently over impervious and pervious surfaces
  •   • Living things use water
  • Outcomes:
  •   • To develop observational skills and celebrate the way in which water moves through our world
  • Materials:
  •   • Washi tape in blue tones and patterns
  •   • 3×5 wooden frames
  •   • Paper
  •   • Colored pencils
  •   • Scissors
  •   • Stapler and staples
  • Preparation:Photocopy and assemble field booklet. Each booklet has a photocopy of the scavenger hunt list of things to be found (PDF) and additionally 11 blank pages.

Remove glass from frames.

Lay out tape and scissors.

  • Execution: Where do we find water? Where do you see water right now? Where do you know there is water that you cannot see at the moment? Where does the water come from and where does it go? Show how to use the frames: Focus your attention on what you see within the frame.

Each “articipant” gets a frame and a field book. Break into small groups of 5 or less. Each group gets some colored pencils.

Do the scavenger hunt. Be creative about noticing water or evidence of it- rust, gutters, tree leaves, bodies, puddles/ man-made and natural.

Observe your discoveries through the frame. Draw what you observe within the frame. Take a break to transition into next activity.

Decorate your frame with washi tape. Insert glass back into frame.
If time allows, make drawings or write poems about water and place them in the frame.



Project: Plant Photograms

By: Aaron Marx & Sarah Nassif

  • Key Ideas:
  •   • Water is a part of many invisible processes
  •   • Photosynthesis uses water to make oxygen we breathe. Leaves are factories making sugars and the oxygen we breathe out of water, carbon dioxide and sunlight. This is a chemical process is called photosynthesis. Without trees and water, we would have no air to breathe!
  •   • A photographic image made without a camera is called a photogram. Creating a sunprint is a photographic process that relies on sunlight and water to create the image. The sunprint paper contains a chemical that fades when it’s exposed to sunlight. When the image is developed in the water bath, areas that were covered up retain the dark blue color while the exposed areas turn light blue or white.
  • Outcomes:
  •   • To recognize water as as a change agent.
  •   • To realize water works in invisible ways.
    • Background:


  • Materials:
  •   • sunprint paper
  •   • water basins
  •   • clear acrylic sheets
  •   • plant leaf materials
  •   • clothesline and clothes pins
  •   • sharpies
  • Preparation: Fill basins with water.

Set up work stations with a sheet of plexiglass for each student.

Label clothespins with student names.

Set up clothesline for drying prints.

  • Execution:Brainstorm how water changes things in ways we can see and ways we can’t see. The visible changes list might include erosion, making something wet that was dry, etc. Invisible changes may include when sugar dissolves, or when water turns something rusty. Explain how photosynthesis works as leaves use water, carbon dioxide we breathe out and sunlight to create a chemical reaction that results in sugars and the oxygen we breathe in.

Explain that we will make photograms using water and sunlight and a different chemical process. Special SunPrint paper is coated with a chemical that changes when exposed to sunlight. We will use leaves, flowers, feathers and other materials to design photograms.

Make photograms: Kids collect cool leaves, flowers, clovers etc to make their designs. When ready, an adult provides a sheet of SunPrint paper. Child quickly arranges materials in a design and places clear plexiglass on top to sandwich everything flat.

Depending on the weather, the print will take 2-5 minutes to expose. When the exposed areas fade to white, the print is ready to develop in the water bath. Quickly remove the SunPrint paper and slide into the water bath to stop the chemical reaction of the sunlight and start a new reaction that allows the unexposed areas to turn a deep blue. Soak the print for 1-5 minutes for best results.

Hang prints to dry using the labeled clothespins. Kids can make multiple prints.

Share and compare results – are some prints lighter or darker? Why? Have kids share about their compositions.



Lesson: Storm Drain Rubbings / Storm Water Drawings

By: Aaron Marx

  • Key ideas: Use urban infrastructure to create a mandala. Using rubbing techniques, have students locate and create images from storm drains. Use these rubbings to create a mandala. Discuss the interconnection of systems and the idea of microcosms. In addition, use historic maps of storm water systems as a basis for ad-hoc drawing and discussion about where water goes.
  • Art outcomes:
  •   • Create a mandala from local storm drain rubbings.
  •   • Teach a method for transferring physical objects to paper using rubbings.
  •   • Learn about geometry, color, and be exposed to uncommon art materials.
  • Water outcomes:
  •   • Physically connect students to water systems through tactile experience.
  •   • Discuss storm water, systems, and where water goes.
  •   • Teach about the impact of pollution on water systems.
  •   • Provide a means to discuss water quality, conservation, and preservation.
  • Materials:
  •   • Large sheets of newsprint
  •   • Crayons
  •   • Oil pastels
  •   • Historic drawings
  •   • Tape
  • Preparation: Tables should be arranged to allow for large sheets of paper to be placed on them. Set up paper, tape, oil pastels, and crayons.
  • Execution: Talk to students about storm drains, what they are for, and where the water goes. Have them spend time locating storms drains near by and looking into them to see what they contain. Often they will contain trash and other debris, which opens up opportunities for conversation.

Talk about how to do a rubbing, and do one as an example. In groups of 2-3 have the students pick a storm drain and do a rubbing using crayon on large sheets of paper (if large sheets are not available, tape some together to cover the drain). Often multiple attempts are required to get practice and obtain a good image.

Next tape the rubbings onto tables. This is a good chance to talk about the interconnection of things, what a mandala is, and how water is necessary for life. Then, ask them to create a mandala from their rubbings using oil pastels. This is a good teaching opportunity to talk about how oil pastels techniques: mixing, blending, and layering.

The historic storm drain drawings can be used to map the movement of water and the physical distance water must travel underneath the city.


Ways Water Moves

Lesson: Tree Flags

  • Key ideas:
    • In nature, leaves act as umbrellas. They catch precipitation on its way from sky to earth. This is important because it regulates the amount of water that reaches the earth’s surface at one time. Without trees, water would run over land straight to bodies of water and cause floods.
  • Outcomes:
  •   • To learn the skill of screenprinting
  •   • To understand the tree’s role in the movement of water
  •   • To recognize the interconnectivity of all parts within an ecosystem
  • Materials
  • Per child:
  •   • Solid color light blue cotton bandanas
  •   • 7” wooden embroidery hoops – one per child
  •   • 9” squares of screenprinting mesh in 110 gauge – purchase by yard and cut to size
  •   • Small plastic squeegee scrapers – at least one per child
  •   • Smocks
  • Other supplies:
  •   • Leaves from various trees in the immediate vicinity
  •   • Pencils
  •   • Masking tape
  •   • Sharpies
  •   • Speedball screenfiller fluid
  •   • Speedball textile screenprinting inks (pearl blue, lime green and other colors)
  •   • Squeeze bottles for dispensing ink (find at restaurant supply store)
  •   • Spray bottles with water
  •   • Sponges, rags and towels
  •   • 5-gallon buckets or basins for water
  •   • Tagboard pads the size of bandanas or larger. These create a smooth printing surface.
  •   • Paint brushes: fine tip taklon (size 1-2), medium tip taklon (size 4-6) and 1” sponge type. (Decent quality brushes are important – don’t use cheap ones)
  •   • Clothesline and clothespins
  •   • Paper plates
  •   • Plastic containers and lids such as yogurt quarts
  • Preparation
  • Advance set up:
  •   1. Assemble screens: cut mesh to 9”x9”, insert into embroidery hoop and tighten screw and pull mesh taught.
  •   2. Put ink into squeeze bottles for easy dispensing
  •       a. Put screen filler in small containers with lids
  •   3. Gather supplies into a large plastic bin
  • On site set up:
  •   1. Set up screenmaking station (an 8’ table can have 6-8 stations)
  •       a. Screen
  •       b. Pencil
  •       c. Screenfiller in small container
  •       d. Various brushes in a jar
  •       e. Jar of water for rinsing brushes
  •       f. Paper plates
  •   2. Set up screenprinting stations around other tables (an 8’ table can have 4 stations)
  •       a. Tagboard printing pad taped down to table
  •       b. Squeegee and plastic lid to use as a squeegee rest
  •       c. Damp rags
  •       d. Bottles of ink
  • Execution: Introduce the key concepts.

Participants choose a leaf or find one on their own that fits within the embroidery frame with space around it (4”x 4” leaf size is best). This becomes the leaf motif.

Place screen mesh-side down on top of the leaf, and trace the leaf with a pencil onto the center of the screen. Be sure there is an inch of space all the way around the traced leaf. Freehand observational drawing of a leaf is fine, too. Add details such as veins or spots inside the leaf motif. Have adult check design before proceeding.

Flip screen so mesh side is up. Shake screen filler so it’s mixed. This fluid will be painted on to block the flow of ink in areas outside of the design. Practice painting with a fine brush in the margins using the screenfiller until comfortable. Then outline the leaf motif carefully with a fine brush. After outlining, add details to interior of motif.

Apply screenfiller evenly up to the frame edge using the 1” foam brush. Don’t glop on the screenfiller, but make sure areas are not thin. Hold screen up to the light and fill in any missed or thin areas. Have adult check that screen filling step is done correctly.

Allow screen to dry in the sun mesh side facing up and take a break in the mean time. (depending on weather, 15 minutes should be enough time. A hairdryer can be used to speed dry screens.)

Participants pair up to print using their screens (one pair of students per printing pad).

Adults administer the ink from squeeze bottles after kids have practiced the movement of squeegee across the screen without ink . One color may be used per design (to change colors, screens must be washed out and dried)

Adult applies a line of ink in the red (blocked) area of the screen. One child holds the screen on top of practice paper, the other uses two hands to pull squeegee across the design area at a 45 degree angle using firm, even pressure. Lay inky squeegee on screen rest away from printing area. Holding the corners of the mesh, lift the screen straight up to reveal the new (wet) print. Carefully position the screen for the next print, avoiding wet ink.

Print leaf motif multiple times to create a repeat pattern. When finished, hang up bandana to dry.



Lesson: Water Made Minnesota

By: Sarah Nassif

  • Key ideas:
  •   • Water changes the landscape as ice and flowing water. The Minnesota landscape was formed by an ancient ocean, a glacier, and rivers we still see today.
  •   • Collaborative art-making & performance: it takes teamwork and individual contributions.
  • Materials:
  •   • Map of Minnesota for reference
  •   • Materials and tools for propmaking: scissors, glue, staplers, tape, tagboard, cardboard, colored paper, fabric scraps, fake fur, brown bags and newspaper
  •   • A long piece of rope or clothesline to create a 10’x10’ outline of the state of Minnesota
  •   • Large white fabric or parachute to make a glacier
  •   • Large blue fabric or plastic sheeting to make ocean, rivers and lakes
  •   • Dowels
  •   • Large white cardstock for signs
  •   • Markers and sharpies
  • Preparation: First set up prop making tables by scene. This will keep clear the different actions of the performance and also give participants an opportunity to self-select their preferred aspect of production.

Arrange and distribute materials as needed.

Assign an adult to each scene to help participants move their projects forward and lead that particular scene.

  • Execution:Introduce kids to the shape of MN and the three main biomes we have: conifer forest, deciduous forest and prairie. How did/does water help create these individual biomes? How does water move through our state? Where does it go when it leaves MN? Minnesota’s beautiful waters flow in three directions: North on the Red River, East to Lake Superior, and south to the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River. We must understand how what we do flows downstream to so many other people.

See who can use the rope to make the shape of the state of MN, show where the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers are, Lake Superior etc. See script for the storyline and other geographic points.

Get participants excited about doing a performance. Explain that even if people didn’t want to perform, they would still be able to help make the performance happen by making props, costumes, and set pieces.

Have kids choose a scene and go with the scene leader to make props. An adult is in charge of each scene, and helps kids identify roles they might like to perform. Brainstorm ways to act out different roles.

Choose narrators. Have them write large script cards they can read aloud during the play. Use the “Water Made MN” script as a guide. Change wording as desired.

The director(s) of the piece rehearse the major actions of scenes with available participants. The actions are specific enough to make engaging stage pictures, but broad enough for anyone interested to join in with minimal prompting and direction.
Once the props are made, start a countdown for the show to begin. Students assemble by scene in the “wings.” The large map of Minnesota outlined in rope on the ground is the “stage.”

The performance itself is an energized structured improvisation. Kids may choose to join in a scene at the last moment and others may choose to be an audience member. The narrators delivered their lines, some nervously and some with much gusto, to an audience of participants, parents, and passersby. The text they read explains how different natural phenomena have shaped Minnesota’s landscape with water.

Everyone takes a bow at the end and thanks the audience.



Lesson: Big Water

By: Sarah Nassif & Esther Ouray

  • Key ideas:
  •   • Water has the power to pulverize, wear down, and move rock.
  •   • Our landscape has been created by the movement and force of water.
  • Outcomes:
  •   • To recognize the energetic power of water and to instill awe.
  • Materials:
  •   • Assorted rocks that can be painted (We gathered ours from the shore of Lake Superior)
  •   • Water based acrylic paint in a limited palette of blues, purples, and gold.
  •   • Fine paint brushes
  •   • Containers for water
  •   • Small plates to use as paint palettes
  • Preparation: Set out all the rocks.

Make a glacier model by sprinkling small gravel into a bread pan or comparable container. Add 1 or 2 larger stones. Fill container ½ way with water. Freeze. When frozen, make a second layer by repeating the above process.

Over the course of the class, allow ice to melt. Observe simulation of sedimentation, and glacial rock deposit.

  • Execution: Discuss the enormous power of large bodies of water. Oceans make sand. Glaciers move boulders the size of buildings. Rivers cut through rock. Water creates landscape.

Choose a rock. Paint the path of an imaginary river on your rock. Does it have tributaries? What direction does it flow? Does it flow in a spiral? Embellish your rock by decorating around the path of its river.

After paint dries, share rock with the group. What will the imagined river do to the rock? Close with a reminder of the power of water.


Water Waste

Lesson: Rain Barrels

By: Aaron Marx

  • Key ideas:
  •   • Using repurposed 50 gallon drums to create rain water collection systems.
  •   • Teaching youth about water preservation, conservation, and sustainable use of resources.
  • Art outcomes:
  •   • Teach painting techniques
  •   • Inspire youth to use art as a means of exploring ideas
  •   • Provide an example of using art to understand science
  • Water outcomes:
  •   • To recognize water as valuable natural resource
  •   • Teach about water systems and water collection
  •   • Provide a means to discuss water quality, conservation, and preservation
  • Materials:
  •   • Spray Paint (for plastic)
  •   • Tarp
  •   • Acrylic paint
  •   • Brushes
  •   • Paper cups
  •   • Paper towels
  •   • Paint shirts
  •   • Inspirational materials
  • Preparation: Obtain plastic rainwater collection barrels. I found a bunch on craigslist for free. They can be purchased new or gently used as well. Be sure that no hazardous materials were stored in the barrels, it is best if they were used only for food grade products. Some can be found from local car wash business that were used to store soap. When rinsed properly these are also ok for rain water collection and to be used on gardens. Paint the barrels using a plastic spray paint application, white seemed to be the best color.
  • Execution: Talk to students about water as a precious resource, the cost of watering gardens, water treatment, and the different ways water is used.

Show them how we can use existing architectural systems of diverting water (downspouts) to collect water to grow food and gardens.

Lay out the tarp, set up barrels, and ask students to paint the rain barrels. Consider a theme to guide the students, or just let them be creative and discover it on their own (much of the best works occurs this way). Help the students learn about painting techniques, color mixing, and the importance of layering paint.

Let the barrels dry and donate them to local community gardens or give them to students to use in their own gardens.



Lesson: Every Living Thing Water Masks (Part 1)

By: Eric F. Avery, Aaron Marx, & Esther Ouray

  • Key ideas: This project aims to broaden the understanding of our place in the ecosystem and to articulate how thoroughly interconnected all beings are to each other and to water.
  • Art outcomes:
  •   • Learning about clay sculpture
  •   • using recycled/green materials
  •   • Paper mache techniques.
  • Water outcomes:
  •   • We are water
  •   • We need water
  •   • We are a part of the watershed
  • Materials:
  •   • Clay (5-7lbs/participant. End run clay recommended)
  •   • Cardboard squares (approx. 1.5’ by 1.5’)
  •   • Recycled newspaper
  •   • Plastic bags (2/participant)
  •   • Masking tape
  •   • Paper mache
  •   • Containers (for mache)
  •   • Tagboard (cereal boxes)
  •   • Scissors
  • Preparation: Find or make any kind of paper mache you’d like. We cooked cornstarch for ours, similar to gravy without the flavoring. Put cornstarch into containers (such as recycled yogurt containers). An additional option is to supply pictures of animals for participants to reference for their sculpting. When participants are choosing what animal they would like to sculpt emphasize that these particular masks are designed to sit on top of one’s head not over one’s face.
  • Execution: We began with everyone getting in a circle to introduce the activity and to bring to mind the importance of water. Participants were asked questions about water such as: “How many days can a person go without food? How many days can a person go without water? What percentage of our bodies are made of water?” We gave participants an opportunity to name as many things as they could that need water.

Everyone is given a cardboard square and puts their name in a corner. Still in the circle everyone gets a plastic bag and several sheets of newspaper. Approximately 5 pieces of newspaper are unfolded flat and then crumpled up and placed inside the plastic bag to make a bundle/armature. The air is taken out of the plastic bag and then the airtight bag is taped onto the cardboard.

Cut and distribute clay to everyone. Tear off tennis ball-sized chunks of clay and then flatten into crude pancakes about the size of one’s palm. Make a ring around the armature by standing the pancakes against the armature. Start from the bottom, and once the initial ring is completed begin the next ring up, which will connect to the ring below. Do this until the whole armature is covered in clay. It is done in this bottom up fashion to avoid flattening the mask and to make later steps in the process easier. Smooth out the clay somewhat: seams can be left visible and clay can be left somewhat lumpy.

Give a brief demonstration on sculpting. Show how clay can be taken away or added to the armature to create a shape. Show how the shape of the entire armature can be sculpted with a heavier touch. Once students have an understanding they can begin sculpting. Ears, beaks, horns, etc are cut out of cereal boxes and inserted shallowly into the clay. This is to ensure a more comfortable fitting mask.

Cover the completed sculpture with plastic bags that have been cut open and flattened. The plastic should cover the form of the clay like a layer of skin. Paper mache at least one complete layer with newspaper. In 1st layer of mache, tagboard protrusions are not mached. They are mached only across the point of contact with the mask (or they get really soggy).



Lesson: Every Living Thing Water Masks (Part 2)

By: Eric F. Avery, Aaron Marx, & Esther Ouray

  • Key ideas: This project aims to broaden the understanding of our place in the ecosystem and to articulate how thoroughly interconnected all beings are to each other and to water.
  • Art outcomes:
  •   • Learning about clay sculpture
  •   • using recycled/green materials
  •   • Paper mache techniques.
  • Materials:
  •   • Newspaper
  •   • Brown paper bags
  •   • Office paper in tones of blues and purples
  •   • White and black paper for the eyes
  •   • Paper mache
  •   • Containers for paper mache
  • Preparation:Put mache into containers and lay out the cardboard work stations with masks on top.
  • Execution: Paper mache the next 2 layers of paper mache on the masks. The 2nd layer is done with brown paper bags. The brown color of this layer helps distinguish it from the newspaper layer. The brown paper also strengthens the mask. Again, do not mache over the protruding tagboard parts of the mask. Mache only across their points of contact with the mask.
    Do not move onto the 3rd layer until all- or nearly all- 2nd layers are complete. Participants can help each other mache.The third layer is done with one color of water toned paper. Choose only one color for the base color and do a complete third layer of mache, this time also macheing the protruding parts. Mache over the edge, rather than up to the edge, of tagboard pieces.

When the 3rd layer is complete, mache the eyes. Suggestion: mache the white of the eyes and then add a dark pupil, even if the realistic image of the creature does not have whites of the eyes.

Add facial detail with colored paper and mache. Embellish with patterns and color. Suggestion: Require at least 3 facial details and the use of 3 different colors in addition to the eye colors.
Let mache dry on top of the clay mold.



Our Environmental Artmaking Workshops are enhanced and supported by special guest visitors periodically throughout the summer.

In 2015 special guests included: the St. Paul Mounted Patrol, the National Park Service, the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, and Ward 1 District Council Member Dai Thao – who was on hand as we celebrated the official re-naming of Western Park to Western Sculpture Park!

The St. Paul Mounted Patrol visited 3 times during the summer. They, along with their horses, were a huge hit with workshop participants and their families. Over the course of the summer, friendships between the police officers and workshop participants were made. Their presence at our workshops was so popular, that for our Final Workshop and Awards Ceremony, we invited one of the officers to present our Artist Awards to workshop participants. At the end of the day, the kids hardly let him leave the Park until he promised that the Mounted Patrol would come to the Workshops again in 2016!

Park Ranger Brian Valentine from the National Park Service has been coming to our Workshops as a special guest for 2 consecutive summers -and we look forward to his return in 2016! He educates Workshop participants about the Mississippi River, wildlife, mapping, and more, all while leading them in artmaking projects that accompany the lessons.

A special presentation by the Minnesota Raptor Center featured four live raptors, including a bald eagle. Workshop participants learned so many things about these amazing and majestic creatures that day all the while having a wonderful time! One of the lessons workshop participants went away with, had to do with the Eagle’s reliance on our public waters for food, and how our actions affect their livelihood.

This summer Open Eye Figure Theatre will bring The Driveway Tour to Western Sculpture Park for a performance of “The Adventures of Katie Tomatie”.

Volunteers and Education Assistants

Our Education Assistants and amazing volunteers from throughout the community assist in all aspects of workshop production. They possess skill in artmaking, enjoy working with young people, and have interest in environmental issues. They’re awesome!

If you are interested in being a summer assistant or volunteering please email mayumi@publicartstpaul.org

Partners and Funding

The Western Sculpture Park Sculpture Exhibition and Environmental Art Workshops are made possible through Public Art Saint Paul’s partnership with Saint Paul Parks and Recreation, the Saint Paul Sewer Utility, and the Capitol Region Watershed District.


    Our Generous Supporters

I. A. O’Shaughnessy Foundation
R. C. Lilly Foundation
Sage Cleveland Foundation
The Capitol Region Watershed District
The Elmer L & Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation
The Saint Paul Foundation
F.R. Bigelow Foundation
Mardag Foundation
The John and Ruth Huss Fund of The Saint Paul Foundation
Minnesota Department of Health Drinking Water Protection
Generous Individuals
The voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.