“Imaginary Leaf Animals” Peabody Installation at Hill Center


It’s autumn in the Young Artists Gallery where the current mixed-media installation is the work of Peabody ES (425 C St. NE) Kindergartners under the guidance of their art teacher, Katie Cushman. With a fall-themed picture book, “Leaf Man” by Lois Ehlert, as inspiration, the class had a discussion about imagination and how each could use this power to expand a basic leaf shape to create an imaginary animal. As Cushman explains “Children see magic in the most ordinary everyday things. They see possibilities in the world that adults seemingly do not have time for anymore. Adults so often are thinking of ‘the next thing’ or their to-do list or the endless politics of the day.”

To begin the project, each student chose a real leaf from a collection Ms. Cushman harvested in nearby Stanton Park, and traced the outline onto paper with a black marker. They turned the paper around in every direction to see all the possibilities, then created their own made-up animals, giving them eyes, ears, spikes, legs, tongues and making the most delightful observations:

“I turned my leaf upside down and I made soooo many eyes! Mine is named ‘One Hundred Eyes.’”- Miguel

“My leaf animal has a stinger on the back” – Liam

“MIne is a Cowunicorn named “Pinkatitus” – Fiona

“My imaginary animal will have a mustache” – Evan

“I made my leaf and I turned it upside down and I made bunny ears on it” – Clea

To complete the assignment, each child made his or her own artistic choices of materials from a selection of tempera paint sticks and crayons for the background, with shiny foil paper, feathers, and gems as embellishments. The results are remarkable but no surprise to Cushman who has faith in “this extraordinary magical vision that children possess.”

Hill Center is located at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. The Young Artists Gallery is on the ground floor, east of the main staircase. The show will hang through the end of December. Ms. Cushman invites the public to “take inspiration from this project – to take time to revel in and notice the beauty in things we see everyday- and to think ‘outside the box’ as my young artists have with this project.”