Artist Brings Organized Chaos To West Hartford Classroom
Michael Justino Michaud, known in the art world as Mijumi, visited King Philip Middle School, in West Hartford, with the goal of showing students that anything could be considered a canvas.
That includes his car, which he allowed the young artists to draw all over with markers.
“My main thing to get across to them is that you don’t have to worry about making mistakes,” said Michaud, an Enfield resident. “They don’t have to use traditional tools. Almost anything can be a canvas, and that’s why I had them do a car.”
He brought in some of his unique work – which he describes as “organized chaos” – to further prove that point. He has tables he took apart and turned into a canvas. His canvas might be another artist’s work. Sometimes, his canvas might have been found on the side of the road.
“I steal spoons from my wife’s kitchen to put on the canvas,” Michaud said. “I can show them how to do this.”
On the second day of his visit, the students were using a more typical canvas, but their paintbrushes were far from traditional. They were using lids that belonged to ice cream packaging, pieces of wood, nails, pieces of metal. The students were using the items as stamps to create patterns.
“When I gave them my introduction, I told them that when I was younger, my only idea of art was that it had to be painting on a canvas,” Michaud said. “In college, I took a painting class, and that’s exactly what they were doing. They were just painting on canvas. There’s so much more you can do. I got a D in painting and I told them that. I wanted to paint how I thought painting should be, so I want to show them what I think painting can be.”
Stacey Grindle invited Michaud into her sixth grade classroom through a grant provided by the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools. Grindle, who also lives in Enfield, wanted to bring the chaos part of Michaud’s work to her student’s attention.
“I’ve seen his work around and his work is so drastically different than everything we do in our classroom, which is kind of controlled and structured with our time constraints,” Grindle said. “I thought it would be a great experience to see what he describes as organized chaos.”
Grindle said she felt that Michaud’s style would lend well to her classroom.
“His style lends itself to an 11-year-old brain in a way,” Grindle said. “They can get his process and it’s relatable to that need to still want to be messy and create a piece that seems intuitive and organic and genuine – as opposed to something where they are forced to create something to learn skills and concepts. Instead, those skills and concepts are coming out very naturally.”
Michaud said he always enjoys hearing the reactions to his work, especially from younger people.
“It’s cool to hear the reactions from people, and to see the reactions these guys are giving is so rewarding,” Michaud said.
Shortly after saying that, Michaud was approached by a student who asked him about one of his works he brought into class, starting a dialogue between the two. And that’s why he said his visit to Grindle’s class is extra inspiring in that regard.
Grindle thinks that inspiration traveled back to her students.
“His work is so unique,” Grindle said. “It was important to let these students learn about contemporary working artists and realize how important it is to support these artists and buy their work. They can see that this could be them.”
West Hartford Students Guided by Artist To Create ‘Organized Chaos’
Visiting artist Mike Michaud allowed King Philip sixth graders to paint his car, and spent several days working with the students through a grant from the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools.
By Ronni Newton
Artist Mike Michaud’s car is newly-painted, and for the next several months he will be proudly driving around in a 2007 Honda Civic bearing the artwork of Stacey Grindle’s King Philip sixth-grade art students.
Michaud, aka “Mijumi,” spent several days at King Philip Middle School this week inspiring students’ creativity – in the style he calls “organized chaos” – including allowing them to paint the car he drives every day.
The project was funded by the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools “Dr. Robert & Gladys Dunn Grant,” with the goal of inspiring the students in Mijumi’s “style of mark making and patterns while connecting to culture and heritage,” using everyday and found objects in their art, including as painting materials.
Michaud said he has painted his car – which started out a coppery color – several times, and once wrapped it with duct tape, but this is the first time he has allowed anyone else to do it. He covered the car with white exterior house paint and even spray-painted the wheels to create the canvas for the students before he arrived at King Philip.
On Monday, all of the sixth-graders who have art during this rotation – about 125 students – had a chance to write or draw on Michaud’s Honda with Sharpie oil markers, brainstorming for some of the art they would create in the classroom on Tuesday.
“I basically said, ‘This is your sketchbook,’” said Michaud. But as the art car project progressed, he decided that he didn’t want words and asked the students to use just images or logos. He outlined some of his favorites, including a cat and a horse. He said he doesn’t plan to repaint the car until next April.
“My personal goal is to show them they can use anything as artwork, anything as a paintbrush,” Michaud said.
On Tuesday he worked with the students inside the classroom, on canvases that Grindle said will ultimately be joined together in a giant, eclectic, industrial-style mural and displayed somewhere in the school, perhaps the cafeteria.
In one class Michaud demonstrated how to use things like cans, washers, ketchup bottles to create faces. “You can create different shapes for the heads, use nails to create hair,” he told the students.
Grindle said that each class period did a different type of project – trees, patterns, portraits. She said she will consult Michaud when the canvases are ready to be joined.
Grindle said that she was introduced to Michaud’s work when she acquired a piece in a scavenger hunt in Enfield, where they both live. The piece came with a caveat to pay it forward, which she did.
She then became a fan, following Mijumi’s social media accounts, and applied for the grant to bring him to her classes.
“The style lends itself to students. To show them art can be messy and it doesn’t have to be with a paintbrush,” Grindle said. “It seemed a natural fit to write a grant and I especially liked the idea of the art car.”
She said that she loves that Michaud respects the students’ work enough that he will keep it on his car.
Grindle said the students really enjoyed the project, and it allowed them to escape the structure of regular classroom instruction. “It allows them to be fully creative. Every student walked away with something.”
She said that she thinks it’s important to introduce the students to a contemporary working artist, who makes a living from his art.
“I really like doing these cool projects,” one girl said as she put the finishing touches on the hair of her portrait. “It’s really fun, and we can be creative.”
For more information about the artist, visit his website. .
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