When Peggy Salazar, principal of Oak View Elementary School in Silver Spring, was looking for a collaborative project the whole school could work on, she found the work of Daniel Dancer, a conceptual artist from Hood River, Ore.
Dancer was at Oak View Oct. 29-30 to work with the students and staff to create a Peace Dragon photo, a picture that included all of the school’s 350 students and staff.
Dancer’s canvas was the school playground and his medium was the staff and students, all dressed in black, who filled in the body of a dragon, the school’s mascot, that Dancer had outlined using black mulch and turf paint. The dragon embraced a peace symbol created by laying out 200 pairs of blue jeans collected by the students.
With everyone in place, Dancer rode 80 feet into the air in the bucket of a Montgomery County fire truck and photographed the scene. For added effect, some students had red shirts under their black ones and, on cue, ran to the mouth of the dragon to simulate fire breathing.
There was one other detail, Dancer said: The number 350 is one he tries to work into each of his aerial photos.
“It’s the maximum parts of carbon we can have in the air and continue life as we know it,” Dancer said. “Its a big wakeup call to all the participants to change the way they view the world ... to see through the eyes of future generations.”
During his three days at the school, Dancer met with all the students and staff, explaining his mission to get them to have a new perspective on life by looking up and thinking about the importance of combating air pollution.
“He’s been a lot of fun to work with: watching the process and talking to him about what he does. There is a lot of math involved; he works it all out on a grid,” art teacher Sarah McCarron said.
Carolyn Scalera, whose daughter Amelie is in fourth grade, was one of many parents who were at the school to see the final photos taken.
“What is exciting about it is the art and the collaboration,” she said. “[It] is a metaphor for working together to save the planet.”