Like any normal person, Katie Johnson has a passion for drawing monsters, but unlike you or I, she uses this passion for the greater good. The Monster Project is a collaborative educational program Johnson began five years ago as a graphic design student at North Texas University that aims to marry her monstrous love for frightful creatures with the similarly noble task of bringing arts education to elementary school students.
According to their website, The Monster Project aims to “help children recognize the power of their own imaginations and to encourage them to pursue their creative potential” through art-focused collaboration. With the help of a range of independent artists and graphic designers, Johnson reinterprets original monster drawings made by her students using a slew of representational styles, resulting in a prodigious menagerie of lusus naturae. In the process, her students learn about the importance of the difference and individuality these monsters embody while also gaining valuable exposure to professional artists and their craft. The end result is a dazzling array of side-by-side comparisons of multi-eyed blobs, sharp-toothed gremlins, and tentacled robo-zombies that would warm even the coldest blood.Monster by a student and Katie Johnson
Discussing the genesis of the project over email, Johnson tells The Creators Project, "My mom is a music teacher at an elementary school, so she got 20 drawings for me from a second grade class and I redrew all of them myself. I decided to open it up to other artists so that the kids could see how many different ways there are of thinking and seeing the world around us, and that all of those are valid and awesome."
She originally utilized the services other members of her cohort, but has since expanded her roster of artists to include creatives outside her academic circle going on to say, "Now, we're going into year five, and I have 107 artists and 107 kids participating. The artists send me their monsters and a letter for their kid, and I go to the classrooms to deliver them. I give each kid their original monster plus a print of the new one and we talk about creativity, encouraging them to keep making things and using their imaginations.” Her classes then typically work on a group monster where students contribute ideas and collaborate toward creating a creature as a class.
The Monster Project is currently focused on its dual bases of operation, Austin and Dallas, but plans to expand to NYC and other cities are in the works. Johnson is launching a new Kickstarter project on Halloween to help fund the program’s expansion into other cities, make professional prints of each students’ monster, publish a Monster Project activity book, as well as begin an online monster store for the project.