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District 192 workshop teaches students to think about the process of art

Artist Phil Hansen shows students of examples of his scanner art project at Boeckman Middle School on Dec. 14.

And really, who wouldn't think to make art out of a banana?

Truth be told, most of us wouldn't. Most of us would look at a bumped and bruised banana and think about making banana bread. But that's not how artist Phil Hansen thinks, and that's not how he's teaching students to think, either.

A Chanhassen-based artist and author of the book, "Tattoo a Banana," Hansen came to Farmington last Friday as part of a new program to encourage students to think differently about art, its limitations and its possibilities.

Hansen's philosophy is that art can happen anywhere, with anything, at any time. He focuses his passion on finding creative - albeit, unusual - materials to use to make his masterpieces. And many of those masterpieces are on food. Or made with food. It really depends on his mood.

Farmington teacher Kjerstin Tharaldson first caught up with Hansen during an Art Educators of Minnesota conference a couple of months ago. He was there speaking on creativity, and Tharaldson was impressed, to say the least.

"We were blown away," she said. "His whole focus is on the process of making art, and not what was the end product."

Hansen spent the morning at Dodge Middle School, and the afternoon at Boeckman Middle School. In that time, he invited students to do two types of artwork - tattooing a banana, and making funny images using a scanner.

"Students have to realize art can come from anything, that they don't have to go out and buy a lot of materials," Tharaldson said.

And that's kind of Hansen's message.

"My focus is on the creative process, rather than to focus on the end product," Hansen said. "It provides a different aspect for the kids."

He gets his ideas for projects, more or less, by simply being curious. He reads a lot, watches podcasts, peruses science magazines, and so on. Those little snippets of information give him a good point of reference when he starts to "mess around" with different projects.

"I'm always messing around with different things," Hansen admitted.

That's how he learned he could make a banana into a piece of art. One day, he happened to notice that when he drew on the banana skin, it turned brown. One thing led to another.

"I started experimenting with different techniques to damage the skin," Hansen said.

Through a series of phone calls and messages, Tharaldson was able to secure Hansen as a speaker for all of the eighth grade classes in School District 192 last week. Hansen's assistant Joy Xie, said Farmington is one of the first school districts Hansen has visited in Minnesota.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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