The colorful world of kids

By Dee Axelrod – Special to the Review – Mar 09 2007

Steve Stolee and partners unveil a short film this weekend.
The world is a colorful place, when seen through the eyes of a child.
The young subjects of “My World of White, Black and Color,” a 2005 documentary featured for the Ninth Annual Celluloid Bainbridge Film Festival, take such delight in the array of hues that viewers may want to break open a big box of Crayolas themselves.
The film showcases paintings and drawings created by students from area schools, including Blakely, Wilkes and Ordway elementary schools, and Woodward Middle School. Images of the art are interspersed with the kids’ observations on the significance of color.
“When we decided our next theme would be about color, we decided that it would be a deliciously provocative subject with many layers, from the physics of color to the sociological aspects of race and skin color,” said Steve Stolee, Bainbridge artist and partner in a collaboration known as the Picture Project. “The surprise comes from the spontaneity with which the kids approached these ideas.
“They will always come up with an angle that you can’t predict.”
Stolee teamed up with Hansville artist Fred Nicholson four years ago for the project. He had been asked by Nicholson to document an exhibition of children’s art at Poulsbo’s Jewel Box Theater.
“I went up there and I was so taken by the charm and intelligence of these drawings, and the depth and the volume,” Stolee said. “There were 200 pictures. I said, ‘Fred we should photographs all of these and at least do some kind of a slide show to allow for more people to see the show.'”
The idea evolved into a movie, accompanied by interviews prompted by Stolee’s desire to learn what inspired the young artists.
The fruit of their first collaboration was the 2003 film “Peace Looks Like This.”
Stolee and Nicholson realized that giving kids an idea to realize visually, filming the results and eliciting the kids’ thoughts on the subject, could be a template for more movies.
The films could be a way to acquaint people outside the schools with the educational process, the filmmakers believed.
For “My World of White, Black and Color,” the artists – now joined by creative colleague Mary Granfors – worked with 12 teachers, eventually documenting more than 900 of their students’ artworks and compressing 10 hours of film into 14 minutes.
The movie offers fascinating insights into the way young people use art to grapple with a range of emotions and subjects.
The kids are sharp observers of the roles color – and by extension, art – may play. For one elementary student, colorful art is solace when his pet chickens die.
“When I lost a chicken I’d draw a picture so I’d always remember it,” he said. “I’d put it up on my wall and look at it and feel good.”
Another young artist believes that color is a synonym for volume.
“If you didn’t have colors, what color would be the sun? See-through,” he said. “What color would be the earth? See-through. Everyone in the world would be see-through, so I think colors are really important.”
The students extrapolate questions about race from consideration of black and white. They equate pigments with specific moods and meanings; red is anger, blue is sorrow, green is growth.
For all the youngsters, color is a sensual experience. As one student asks, “If you didn’t have color, what would you feast your eyes on?”
The Picture Project next tackles the theme “This Is My Family.” Lining up schools and teachers willing to participate begins this month, Stolee says, and the Picture Project, now with a board of directors in place and non-profit status pending, must look for support.
With each new project, the filmmakers refine and develop their mission to provide insight into current cultural values through children’s creativity.
“What we do is inspire little kids to explore big ideas through their artwork, and bring it to a larger audience through our films,” Stolee said. “Ultimately what we hope to do is to provoke conversations around important subjects by stimulating thought from unexpected angles.”

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Picture this
“My World of White, Black and Color,” a Picture Project documentary, shows 1:45 p.m. March 11 for The Ninth Annual Celluloid Bainbridge Film Festival at The Historic Lynwood Theater. The event is free and open to the public. Bainbridge filmmaker and graphic designer Stephen Stolee directed, edited, and co-produced with Fred Nicholson and Mary Granfors. For information call 842-7901.

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