It was only last week that I heard of something called the Fundred Dollar Bill Project, conceived of and initiated by artist Mel Chin. Some friends who are fellow artists and teachers attended the official Fundred ribbon cutting ceremony last Thursday night, and posted pictures and info on their Instagram and Facebook feeds, making me curious as to what this was all about. Then, last Saturday we all got together and they talked about the Fundred Dollar Bill project some more, getting me excited about trying this with my art students at school as part of both our One To The World, and STEAM lessons. Seeing how it all tied in with art, science, and community, and seeing just how much fun this looked like, was a no brainer.
Originally I wanted to try this project out with my students a little later on in the year, but when I learned that Mel Chin was an artist-in-residence at the Corcoran in DC, and the fact that I had to drive out to DC to drop off some art work yesterday, made me wonder if I could get at least a few classes worth of Fundreds completed by my students, so I could personally stop by and drop them off to The Fundred Reserve, currently held at The Corcoran. That, however, all depended on the proximity of the Reserve to the gallery I had to drop work off to, since Washington, DC is a big city that can take over an hour to get through, or more. Fortunately, it wasn't even a two-mile drive from one stop to the next, so I put the plans in motion. After spending my free time on Monday printing out the templates for both the front and back of a Fundred, I spent more of my free time at the copy machine making double sided copies of Fundreds for my students to work on. The first Fundreds I had folks make happened to be made by a couple of students I tutor in art, on Mondays after school. One student is a third-grader, and the other is in fifth grade. Both of them were very receptive to the idea of making Fundreds, and both did a really good job, so it gave me some confidence in trying this with my students on Tuesday.
I managed to have the majority of students in all three of my morning classes complete a Fundred. Third-graders did well, though quite a few were anxious to jump in without reading or attempting to follow some of the instructions. Some worked somewhat quickly, as well. Still, it was an overall success, and of course the kids had a ball making their own imaginary money. Fourth-graders seemed to have the most success at this, as they were mature enough to slow down a little, read through the instructions and work carefully, yet they didn't get too picky and caught up in the details. Fifth-graders did some fantastic work, but at times seemed to get a little too methodical in trying to render things a certain way, causing some kids to need another day to complete their work. In the end, I think it was very satisfying for my students to get involved in a project that raises real awareness about lead poisoning, while making some super fun art in the process.
While I regret not knowing about this project earlier, and missing the ceremony last Thursday night, it worked out for the better that I could drop in to personally drop off over sixty Fundred Dollar Bills, including a rhino-themed one that I worked on for over two hours on Tuesday night. Upon arriving at the Corcoran building, I was amazed at the cool sign above the building's entrance, as well as the big vault door entrance in the building's interior space. The fact that they made this all look so very official showed how much care and love was put into this project. I later learned that Mel Chin actually designed and cut the sign in foam, himself!
In the back of my mind, while planning my visit, I thought about how great it would be to be able to present this first batch of Fundred Dollar Bills to Mel Chin himself, though I also imagined it was most likely a pipe dream, and I'd simply hand the stack to one of the museum workers and be on my merry way home. To my pleasant surprise, Mel had returned from a lunch break and had a small gap of time to speak with me before having a meeting to attend. I couldn't believe it when he came over to introduce himself and shake my hand. He was so kind and nice to talk to - you can tell how passionate he was about getting the word out about lead poisoning in children, and helping children, as well as adults have a voice through art. Him taking some time out to talk with me, made my day.
The other thing I had in the back of my mind was how cool it would be to know that mine and my students' work would get hung up for display, right there at the official Fundred Reserve, at the Corcoran building. Sure enough, the Fundred workers, in their spiffy, official-looking uniforms were there hanging our work! There's no doubt my students will be excited to learn of this news.
Part of the sense of urgency that I had about getting my students' work to the Funded Reserve asap was knowing that Mel Chin's residency at the Corcoran in DC was ending very soon. The good news is, there are still some things that folks can participate in at the Corcoran, regarding the project, all of which can be found HERE. In the meantime, I highly recommend getting involved and making and sending in your own Fundred!