WATERLOO — The butterflies have landed outside of Lowell Elementary School.

Fifty-three wooden sculptures made of colorfully painted boards look over the school’s lawn and could be seen by traffic speeding by on U.S. Highway 218. The creations began appearing Wednesday and their numbers grew day by day until Sunday.

It’s a project of the Youth Art Team. The 15-member team of artists ages 5 to 18 collaborated with Lowell’s third-grade art classes, a Cedar Heights Elementary after-school program and another group of students from Waterloo and Cedar Falls. All together, about 100 young people in elementary, middle and high school participated in the project. Students attend a total of eight schools in Waterloo and six in Cedar Falls.

The team has been working together and creating art since 2010 through a partnership between Orchard Hill and Harvest Vineyard churches, hosted by Link Christian Community Development. Team members made a video introducing the butterfly project to students they partnered with.

“Be beautiful. Be powerful,” team member Aerz Johnson said on the video. “Try to think of things that nobody has created before.”

Heidi Fuchtman, the adult leader of the team, said the project models what is known as the “butterfly effect.” She explains that “one small change in a condition can affect something much larger,” according to the theory. She helped to make contact with the groups of students that partnered with the Youth Art Team.

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Each group worked to make a number of butterflies. The square posts — usually with a smiley face painted at one end — form the butterflies’ bodies with a series of boards attached to two adjacent sides, forming the wings. The butterfly bodies balance on pairs of wooden legs that form a 90-degree angle.

The Lowell third-graders worked on the project over three weeks, said student Staats Gabriel. His class worked on assembling the butterflies they created Thursday and placing them outside.

“It was fun, it was cool to make these because it was something we never did,” said Gabriel.

“We wanted to make a change, so when people walk by they can see our art and want to visit Lowell,” said Michaela Barrett, a classmate who was also working on the project Thursday. She suggested that those who view the art installation will “smile and tell people about it so they can come see it.”

If the whimsical creations don’t bring a smile to the faces of passers-by, perhaps the messages on the signs that accompany some of them will. The student-painted messages say things like “be happy,” “smile,” “I love you,” “peace is now” and “make a difference.”

All, of course, are things a butterfly would say.


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