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MONSTER GO spelled out with monster letters

ArtPrize's “Monster's Go"
Showcases Monsters from GRCS Students

By Lauren Fay Carlson

Throughout ArtPrize, artist and children's book author and illustrator Aaron Zenz was staked outside the Grand Rapids Children's Museum drawing monsters. And though the colored pencil sketches may be small in size, they are anything but ordinary. Inspired by the minds and drawings of local children, Zenz's monsters are created to reflect the intention of each child's original design, often resulting in lively and sometimes silly characters.

Children's drawing of a purple monster

Having entered a similar piece in ArtPrize last year in which he asked passersby to draw monsters that he would then reinterpret, Zenz decided to expand his monster-drawing project by enlisting school children before this year’s competition. “A big part of what I do is travel around to different schools throughout the school year and get kids excited about reading and writing and creating," says Zenz, who visited GRCS last year to read and discuss his children's book Monsters Go Night Night.’

Children's drawing of a gray monster

"The student body was so well behaved and attentive and interactive … they were just hanging with me through the whole author visit presentation," he says.

During his visit, Zenz asked a child to doodle a squiggle on a piece of paper.  He then duplicated that squiggle.  And from those two doodles, he created two radically different monsters/creatures.  He encouraged kids to “see” different features in the same squiggle.  What was a fin in one creature are eyes in another.  The squiggle, he explained, was just the start to creativity.

Children's drawing of a red monster

“Aaron Zenz’s visit to GRCES was a HUGE hit!” says Media Specialist Betty-Ann Boss. “It is always exciting to have an author/illustrator come to school to talk to the students about their craft, but Aaron’s visit really spoke to the students.”

Children's drawing of a green monster

After his visit, Zenz sent Boss a squiggle he wanted all kids to use to create their monster.  She made copies of it and put them in the art room so all students worked from the same squiggle. Art teacher, Laura Pegman, gave every GRCES student the opportunity to submit one monster if they had extra time at the end of an art class.

A young boy and artist display a photo

Zenz contacted six other local schools, in addition to GRCES, and requested that they submit their monster drawings for him to select and redraw in his own signature style. Choosing 55 total drawings — eight of which were from GRCS students — to include in the launch of "Monsters Go" at ArtPrize, Zenz had an inspirational backdrop for festival goers to enjoy — and hopefully participate in — this unique artistic experience.

“The students loved the idea that one of their monsters could become the inspiration for a real live author!” says Boss.

“Mr. Zenz taught us to get inspired by things around us,” says Jonas Hart, a current fourth grader at GRCES whose monster was selected. “He said, ‘There is inspiration all around you. Let your imagination run wild. Make your monster your way with your own tiny little details.’ It was cool to see what he made from my monster.”

On September 30, ArtPrize announced that "Monsters Go" was among the top 20 finalists in the public vote category. Despite this honor, Zenz is simply happy to showcase the vision of children across the city in the way he knows best: through his monsters. Grand Rapids Christian was pleased to be a part of his exhibit and to work with Zenz to spark creativity and inspire our students to be future authors and artists in the process.

To see more about the GRCS monsters that Zenz chose, as well as his interpretations, check out his reveal video