Art connects two cultures of youth

Published 12:09 pm Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A small dog tugs on a leash held securely by a little girl; another youngster stands beside a telescope, both beneath a blazing sun.

This tableau of colorful metal sculptures graces the entrance to Montevallo Elementary School. Soon, another family of sculptures will be shipped to Echizen, Japan, Montevallo’s Sister City.

The MES sculptures were the results of collaboration between UM art professor Ted Metz and MES art teacher Alan Cecil. The plan evolved during the summer of 2007. The sculptures were conceptualized by MES students. Then, UM art students created them from the elementary school students’ drawings.

Professor Metz said the Echizen project is similar to the MES undertaking. Since 1995, members of the Echizen community have been generous with the city of Montevallo, bringing in a wide range of their traditional arts.

Now, 14 individual pieces will make up a sculpture installation in one of Echizen’s parks. The works of art were inspired by young Japanese children’s drawings.

UM art students, under Metz’s direction, began to create the pieces during the second semester of summer school. Today, the sculptures populate UM’s 3-D Complex.

Metal multi-colored fish hang from hooks near the ceiling, a chemist in a lab coat pours liquids into a beaker, a man models a traditional bamboo hat and children are personified in everyday activities such as riding a bike.

The metal figures capture expressions of wonder and joy created in pencil by the Japanese children. Metz asked the advice of several Montevallo children when selecting paint colors for the sculptures. Yellow, blue and red were popular choices.

Soon the pieces will be en route to Echizen. In the meantime, the local community has been invited to view the sculptures as they are being completed. The 3-D Complex is easily identifiable. It’s the building with Japanese and American flags in the windows.

Cynthia Shackelford serves as the public relations director for the University of Montevallo. Shackelford can be reached by e–mail at