Art Teachers Bring the Unique Concept of ‘Art Carpets’ to Richmond

Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

Most people have never heard of an art carpet and for good reason – because until now no one has ever thought to create an art carpet. You may be thinking, “What is an art carpet?” And you would not be ridiculed for asking that question. The creators of the first art carpet are Julie Crowder and Kirstie Heim Sadler, art teachers at William Fox Elementary and Binford Middle School, respectively, both in Richmond, Virginia. The two describe their pilot art carpet as a carpet that is “outdoors, brightly colored, and does not have to be vacuumed.”

The two art educators came up with the concept and developed the idea for it when they were looking at examples of traditional “art like” carpets created by Guatemalans as part of their celebration of Corpus Christi. During this particular celebration, which is a huge part of the Catholic tradition in Guatemala, members of the community spread out a collection of items such as fruits, vegetables, pine needles, flowers, and dyed sawdust onto an area in the street that essentially becomes a colored pathway resembling an eclectic and very artistic looking carpet. This long, narrow, and vibrantly decorated “carpet” runs along a given street for several hundred yards, sometimes longer, and serves as a pathway for a holy procession through towns in Guatemala.

Crowder and Sadler took the concept and brought it into their classrooms, allowing their students to create their own art carpets for the sidewalks outside their respective schools. Some of the areas of the carpets were fashioned with the same materials used by the Guatemalans and others were simply drawn onto the sidewalk itself using sidewalk chalk. Words spread through the school district about the carpets and it wasn’t long before students from other schools were implementing their own designs and creative visions to sidewalks throughout the community in Richmond, all thanks to two art teachers who saw something special in the concept of art carpets.