Art truck inspires Russellville students

Matthew Kirchner, above, chose to sketch the turtle carved into the wooden driver’s side door of the Pakistani Cargo Truck Initiative at the Cole County R-1 Schools Monday.

Matthew Kirchner, above, chose to sketch the turtle carved into the wooden driver’s side door of the Pakistani Cargo Truck Initiative at the Cole County R-1 Schools Monday. Photo by The Associated Press.

RUSSELLVILLE, Mo. — The Native American-stylized painting of Aesop’s fable “The Fox and the Crow” caught the attention of eighth-grader Skyler Kaiser on Monday.

She stood and sketched a fox near the loading doors of the Pakistani Cargo Truck Initiative outside the Cole County R-1 Elementary School.

“I was so amazed by the artwork,” Kaiser said.

The inspiration of Kansas City Art Institute alumni Asheer Akram was unveiled with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s Echoes: Islamic Art & Contemporary Artists exhibition last month.

The Russellville schools were among a rare few who were able to see the truck in their own backyards. Since the museum is closed Monday and Tuesday, the truck was in Cole County on Monday and today. The trip was sponsored by Art Inside the Park, a non-profit organization that strives to promote visual literacy.

Jefferson City native Carla Steck, who coordinates the Kansas City Art Inside the Park, contacted art teacher Amy Potts about

bringing the truck to Russellville.

This was a way for students to take a field trip without leaving the school.

“This is an opportunity to bring world class art to our school,” Potts said.

Before the truck’s arrival, Potts showed a video of the truck-making process.

For young artists like Kaiser, the video couldn’t capture the wonder of seeing the redesigned 1952 Chevrolet grain truck with her own eyes.

The truck features several art genres and drew in more than a dozen artists and craftsmen.

Kaiser prefers pencil drawings, but she was inspired by the truck’s carved wooden doors to try her hand at woodcarving next, she said.

Seeing the truck, which also featured stained glass, metal work and woven fabric, “makes me want to work a lot better at my artwork,” Kaiser said.

In addition to artistic inspiration, the cargo truck initiative hopes to influence further understanding of social and cultural identities.

Akram visited his father’s homeland of Pakistan in the spring of 2010 through the Lighton International Artists Exchange Program and was surprised at the elaborate beauty of the vehicles there.

In his Belger Crane Yard Studio in Kansas City, Akram began small-scale sculpting from his experience. And by February 2012, he was recruiting fellow artists for the Mideast meets Midwest project.

Drawing from the traditional Pakistani-style tracing back to palace and temple decor during the Mogul Empire, Akram’s truck has a notable Midwest twist, including several state symbols.

“I like all the cultural stuff that goes with it,” Kaiser said. “We were very lucky to get this in such a small town.”

Potts agreed. As each elementary classroom took its turn viewing the truck, many teachers like Stacie Strobel took pictures in the hopes of incorporating the visit into future lessons.

In her eighth-grade math classes, Strobel thought she might be able to use the geometric shapes as examples. And Potts will refer to the styles in her art classes. Others may study the history or culture of Pakistan.

“Our hope is to captivate everyone by our work and inspire them to investigate cultures outside of their everyday surroundings,” promotional material said.

On the Web:

www.pctinitiative.com/about.html

www.atelier-cms.com/program.html

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