About the Umbrella Offering (U.O.) project
In 1996, four artists from northern Virginia accompanied artist David Heatwole back to his roots to Bridgewater, Virginia. Their purpose was to construct a very complex and symbolic piece of art with the help of volunteer students from Turner Ashby High School. The project was designed to help participating students explore their past, their values and their worth while also exploring the concept of tolerance toward their fellow students.
The first Umbrella Offering of the T.A.C.’s community-uniting program was accomplished with the help of 160 Turner Ashby H.S. students, faculty, staff, volunteers from the community, and local businesses. All helped to create the image of a very large fish, composed of what were considered umbrella self-portraits.
Each student’s self portrait was composed of several components. First, a 12 foot metal pole, which was driven 2 ½ feet into the ground. Then students were to bring an umbrella that they then had an opportunity to decorate. Each student was then asked to reflect on their lives and to think about who they were and what they were made of. They were then to select 8 items from their lives that symbolized their ideas, beliefs, interests and dreams. These were then hung from the ribs of their umbrella. Finally, an article of clothing (usually a favorite T-shirt) was hung on a hanger further down under the umbrella, which was also symbolic in nature. The students’ umbrella self-portraits were then taken to a large rye field where they were placed on top of the 12-foot metal poles that had been arranged in the shape of an acre sized fish. An aerial photograph of the final image was then taken from an airplane.
This Umbrella Offering project helped students to think about their fellow schoolmates, where they came from and what made each one unique yet - similar. The project taught tolerance in a quiet, but effective way.
Heatwole vowed to the student body in a series of assemblies that if they decided to volunteer to produce the project he would continue for the rest of his life to share their project and to market it in order that it would spark future Umbrella Offering projects. He said that their project would be like casting a stone in water and the future would experience the ripple affect of their project. And so they have. SEE MORE.