Children at the University of Montevallo’s Child Study Center can make their own kind of music on the center’s playground this fall, thanks to an innovative project completed by alumna Katharine Murray and her faculty mentor, Tanner Young.

Murray, a member of the University’s TRIO McNair Scholars program who earned a bachelor’s degree in art from UM last year, and Young, an assistant professor of art, celebrated the ribbon-cutting for the interactive art music wall earlier this year.

The wall received financial support from the UM Green Fund and McNair Scholars program. It was constructed using recycled materials Murray collected from Child Study Center parents, including pots and pans, old grills, baking pans and other discarded stuff that might normally end up in a landfill.

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“I wanted to make something that was equal parts sculpture and play thing,” said Murray, who began working on the project while she was still a UM student before its completion was delayed by COVID-19. “I had previously made a sculpture out of pieces of a drum kit, and a critique I kept running into was people wanted to play with it. I didn’t design it to be durable in that way. This led me to the question, ‘But what if I did?’”

“I researched artists like Isamu Noguchi and John Cage, studying both ideas of playground art and sound art,” Murray continued. “It was a lot of experimentation with forms and the sounds each material made. The process for how to make it changed and evolved as problems like sustainability and structure stability needed to be solved. My mentor, Professor Tanner Young, played a great role in helping me problem-solve and execute the project.”

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In addition to providing a fun and interactive way for kids to make music during playtime, the art music wall’s sustainability aspect also helps teach children the importance of conserving and recycling the planet’s resources, Murray said.

“I’m excited for the children to experience free play and music-making at the same time. I think having a piece of nontraditional playground equipment will encourage creativity,” she said. “I hope the children enjoy it!”

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the University of Montevallo website.

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