Rebecca Bass has had each of her classes design an art car, usually an old junker that’s decorated with paint and/or found objects ranging from buttons to CDs to life-size representations of people.
Even in what are considered “failing” schools in the Houston area, Rebecca Bass’ students stand out as the ones “least likely to...": graduate, go to college, make it, you name it. But the 49-year-old art teacher is OK with that—come June, it makes the changes her kids have gone through all the more apparent.
Since 1990, Bass has had each of her classes design an art car, usually an old junker that’s decorated with paint and/or found objects ranging from buttons to CDs to life-size representations of people. That first year, her students at the all-Hispanic Edison Middle School entered a national art car competition and won first prize—$1,500—for fitting an old Volkswagen Beetle with sofa foam and beads. Bass then used the money to take the students whitewater rafting. “These kids had never left town before except to drive to or from Mexico,” explains Bass, who cruises around in an art car she created herself, a 1989 Dodge Ram Charger sporting a paint-and-mirror mosaic that she calls “DragonZ” (pictured).
Bass believes that her project, which she’s taken to four low-performing, mostly minority middle and high schools, provides her students and their schools with a source of pride. And rightly so: Every class has placed first or second in the 11 national competitions they’ve entered thus far.
“They become the ‘art car kids,’ they become a team,” Bass says. “Everybody sees them out there, gluing stuff up, with the music blaring. And their self-esteem just skyrockets.”
—Photograph by David Kidd