When most people see a dead fish, they think dinner. But yesterday, a group of elementary school students took a good look at dead fish and thought art.
More than 800 students at Arthur Slade Regional Catholic School in Glen Burnie participated in the school's first annual "Spring into Art" day, where they learned that many unusual things can be used to create art, even dead fish.
Students in kindergarten through eighth grade used a variety of objects, including sponges and frozen fish, to make designs and prints on T-shirts. Out back behind the school, hundreds of tiny T-shirts, hung on wire hangars on a chain link fence, fluttered in the breeze as the paint dried.
Meanwhile, students in the auditorium were busy picking from a dozen different arts projects, including origami, jewelry making, printmaking, face painting and basket weaving.
A group of volunteer parents was even teaching the fine art of cake decorating. Students will get to eat their masterpieces today.
Kathy Krause of Linthicum, who has a fourth-grader at the school, took the day off work to help children paint T-shirts.
"It's good for them to experience different types of art, to see the different talents they have. And also to have a fun day," she said.
Suzanne Whitmore, the school's director of development, and art teacher Pat Toth organized the full day of arts demonstrations and projects, bringing in about 15 professional artists as well as dozens of parent volunteers.
In the cafeteria, 100 children in grades four and five were busy making prints on large sheets of paper. Professional printmaker Freda G. Grandy said inventing a way to let so many students create prints at the same time was a challenge.
"We had to use very basic materials," said Gandy, who has a studio in Laurel. Instead of painting knives and brushes, students used Popsicle sticks and Q-Tips. Upside-down cafeteria trays served as printing plates, and small plastic foam dishes held the bright-colored paints.
Several of the young artists said they were surprised to learn that people actually make prints for their full-time jobs.
"That would be a pretty easy way to make a living, and fun, too," said 11-year-old Roscoe Hager of Severn, who said he'd consider becoming a professional artist.
Organizers of the event said they hoped bringing in artists with unusual talents would teach students that there are many different ways to use art, even in full-time work.
"I didn't think you could do this for a living," said Patrick Toher, 11, of Fort Meade, who was busy working on prints. "Learning about art, it's kind of neat."
Students were fascinated with the job of sketch artist Barbara King, a sergeant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department. King showed children sketches of many criminals she has drawn from witnesses' descriptions over the past 12 years, along with mug shots for comparison.
She demonstrated how an artist would complete a sketch by using a portrait of an irate Donald Duck. She showed one sketch, she said, in which the suspect "looks just like Fat Albert."
"They kidded me a lot about that," she told the students. But the sketch looked familiar to a woman, who called the police. Officers were able to get the name of a suspect from the information. And that suspect turned out to be the man who murdered two 12-year-old children two years ago, she said.
Her audience was spellbound.
Julie Arnold, 10, of Glen Burnie, said watching the police artist was her favorite segment of the day.
"I like police officers. They have good jobs and stand by our country and catch all the criminals," she said.