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Dothan City Schools showcase new art immersion project on the Basilosaurus

UA News Center

A new art immersion project opening at Dothan High School showcases the importance of a prehistoric whale found in Alabama.

The Basilosaurus lived approximately 35 million years ago. It’s the official state fossil of Alabama and a focal point for this 2023 project. The unveiling of a large-scale art sculpture centered around the whale is set for Thursday, October 19 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Dothan High School.

Dothan City Schools

Butch Anthony is an acclaimed Alabama artist who partnered with Dothan High School to create an original sculpture and help the students with their original pieces.

His collaboration includes a 40-foot-long whale sculpture that’s made from buckets, chairs and bones. 250 art students are also making fish out of cans alongside the whale. Anthony said it’s good for young learners to get involved in a hands-on project.

“It teaches them how to make stuff. When I was growing up in the 70’s, we didn’t have all these video games and cell phones. So, kids today don’t know how to use tools really good,” Anthony said.

The Alabama artist said he taught students how to make art out of recycled materials, like cans, tin and bottle caps.

Dothan City Schools

“This teaches them how to make art. They do not have to go to an art store to buy materials,” Anthony said. “You can find stuff on the side of the road, dumpster diving, finding enough paint and scrap from cans, and screwing it all together and make your own art out of nothing.”

This project also shows the impact of art and collaboration through The University of Alabama. A Basilosaurus fossil is part of UA’s Museum of Natural History. Dr. John Friel works at the museum and partnered with Dothan High School art teacher Marion Wylly to combine the academic curriculum alongside the art installation.

“Visiting the museum several times, I noticed the Basilosaurus whale there,” Wylly said. “I told Dr. Friel about this large-scale idea in Dothan to gain information about the whale to the Dothan students.”

Wylly said Dothan High School is using the Basilosaurus fossil in academic curriculum. This includes the visual arts group, the music department, the forensic classes, the anatomy classes and the English department.

Wylly said the city waste management, alongside the partnership with Lowe’s, allowed them to get cans from their establishment to make this project happen. The Alabama State Council of the Arts assisted with a $20,000 grant to allow the initial funding.

The art exhibition is open to the public at Dothan High School in the commons area in the main building.

More information about this art immersion project can be found here.

Ella Grossomanides is a student intern in the Alabama Public Radio newsroom.
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