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Bringing the garden inside

A Rosemount Middle School student works in the school's sculpture garden.

On the floor of a classroom at Rosemount Middle School there is a pretty fair representation of what Minneapolis' iconic Spoon Bridge and Cherry sculpture might look like if all the artist had to work with was actual spoons and skeins of yarn.

To its left and right there are found-object recreations of works by Jasper Johns, Alberto Giacometti, even cloth-covered Coke bottles meant to invite comparisons to the work of Christo, the artist best known for draping significant structures in fabric.

The miniature recreations, and other work not patterned after famous sculptures, are part of Rosemount Middle School's first sculpture garden. The garden, set up in an empty classroom, is a mix of original student artwork and pieces modeled after the work of famous artists.

RMS art teacher Sue Schmidt has wanted for years to create a sculpture garden, but until this year she hasn't had the space. With her extra classroom set to disappear next school year, she figured this was her last chance.

"I always thought it would be cool to do one big installation," Schmidt said.

Schmidt also needed a new project for students who had taken her elective class in the past. This fit the bill perfectly.

Students created all of their projects out of found materials like pop cans and taco sauce bottles, in part because the items were readily at hand and in part because Schmidt needed to clear out cabinet space as she prepares to cut back her classroom space.

"It helps with the three-dimensional part of it," Schmidt said. "It's just easier doing 3-D with found materials. It's green art, and it's a way of recycling things."

Working with found items also allows Schmidt to talk with students about artists who work only with items they have recovered from the trash or elsewhere. She said students had fun "shopping" for materials in her classroom.

The sculptures in the sculpture garden were created by seventh and eighth graders in Schmidt's extreme clay and sculpture classes. A group of eighth grade students in Schmidt's Irish Time class created an oversize four-panel replica of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night painting to serve as a backdrop on one wall.

The sculpture garden was open for parents to explore during conferences last week. Students created a construction-paper footpath to guide visitors through the display. Schmidt plans to leave the sculptures up through mid-November.

On Wednesday, students went through the garden and evaluated the sculptures. They sketched their favorites, and the works they thought made the best use of space or had the best lines.

Student Anaiah Lewis created a fabric-covered box - another work in the style of Christo - and a box-and-bottle robot for her two works. She also researched facts about the artist. She said enjoyed the project and learned some interesting things.

Schmidt plans to create a second sculpture garden with new students later this year.