Katie Dollard’s art club students thought the difficult part of their project was done after they collected hundreds of school lunch milk cartons then designed and built a replica of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.
But when they got ready to take a photo of their creation, dubbed Falling Milk, to send it to a nationwide contest, they realized there was no safe way it would fit through the door of their art room to go outside for better photos.
About a dozen people helped ease it out a window instead, and art teacher Katie Dollard took photos of the project on the lawn. But in bringing it back in through the window, the project fell apart.
Those hard-won photos earned the art club at Mechanicville Junior/Senior High School a $1,500 prize as one of 10 out of nearly 200 school groups that won a contest to create something out of recycled milk cartons. Dollard said she may use the prize money to hire a muralist to work with the students.
Derek Proper, 12, had the idea of making a model of Fallingwater, based on his interest in architecture, particularly Frank Lloyd Wright.
“It just kind of popped into my head,” he said.
Another student later suggested it be called Falling Milk.
In September and October, the students collected their classmates’ milk cartons from the cafeteria and rinsed them out in the art room. They separated the brown chocolate milk cartons from the pink strawberry milk ones and set aside the blue and white cartons that held regular milk. Each color formed a different part of the building, with the blue cartons sliced up to represent the waterfall on Bear Run over which Wright designed Fallingwater in 1935.
The structure, once a second home for Edgar Kaufmann, president of Pittsburgh-based Kaufmann’s Department Store, and now a much-celebrated landmark that is open to the public for tours, is in southwestern Pennsylvania.
On the students’ model, the building’s two chimneys are cartons wrapped with yarn to give the impression of the stone texture of the original. A ledge of several cartons simulates a bridge that tourists walk across, and the students also tried to replicate the house’s cantilevered levels.
“We tried to make that look as realistic as possible,” Proper said.
They put the cartons together with a hot glue gun, and sometimes had to resort to popsicle sticks to shore up the structure.
“Every now and then, something would break, and we’d have to repair it,” said Mariah Day, 16.
The contest required at least 100 whole milk cartons be used; the Mechanicville students used more than 260. They stored them in Dollard’s room in big garbage bags and a large bucket.
Toward the end of the collection, “every surface was covered,” Dollard said. “Every day, we had a new bag full.”
The students didn’t have assigned tasks on the project, but pitched in wherever needed, Day said.
“Whenever anyone needed help, we would go and help them,” Day said.
Day, Proper and 13-year-old Amanda Becker were there almost every day to work on the project, and 12 of their classmates and fellow art club members also participated.
The art club is open to Mechanicville students in grades 6-12 and meets after school.
The Made By Milk Carton Construction Contest is sponsored by Evergreen Packaging, the company that makes the milk cartons sent to local dairies, which fill them and send them to Mechanicville schools.