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Artist Trading Cards Make Art Accessible To All Ages

On a gray, windy afternoon in early December, the students in Mary Ferris' art class at Bart-Colerain Elementary School brightened the day with their enthusiasm and creativity. The youngsters chattered among themselves as they considered what to draw or paint on tiny paper canvases. By the end of the period, a stack of the canvases, known as artist trading cards (ATCs), had been filled with images of sports, horses and rainbows, landscapes, and geometric shapes.

"It's a neat way to share art," Ferris said, describing the purpose of ATCs. "It shows the relevance of art and how it affects daily life."

Introduced in Switzerland in 1997 and since becoming a worldwide phenomenon, ATCs are miniature pieces of art to share. Ferris noted that there are simple rules: Cards must be 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches in dimension, and the artist's information must be included on the back of each card. For her students, Ferris inks each tiny canvas with a custom stamp that indicates where a title, date, artist name, and contact information can be written. In her classes, Ferris asks the students to write only their first name and school as a general safety measure. Adults who participate - especially aspiring and professional artists - are welcome to include their specific details.

Ferris has collaborated with Quarryville Library youth services coordinator Randi Kennedy to create an ATC trading post. Blank cards may be obtained at the library, and folks may drop off and select completed cards there. Individuals may also use materials provided by the library to decorate their cards on-site. The library has a copy of the trading card stamp that may be inked on the back of cards completed at home.

So far, students at Bart-Colerain, Providence, and Quarryville elementary schools have participated in the project, but Ferris hopes that additional schools and community members will join in.

"I'm hoping to get professional artists to participate," Ferris said. Participants may create original art on the cards, or they may follow Ferris' example of recycling finished pieces for the project. She pulled prints completed in college out of storage and cut them into ATCs, creating "bite-size" pieces of art.

As the cards are small, projects can often be completed quickly, and they can be a good "stash buster" for people who like to save bits of things. "It's a good way to use up scraps (of paper or other materials)," Ferris said, noting that she would like to see what fiber artists could do by embroidering or felting fibers to the cards.

The cards are best created with stiff paper like cardstock, although thin sheets of wood, tile, or stiffened cloth could also be used. Any medium is permitted, and the finished objects may be three-dimensional. Subject matter is up to the artist, although artwork submitted for trading should be chosen carefully, as children will have access to the images.

There is no charge to participate in the ATC project. The Quarryville Library is located at 357 Buck Road, Quarryville. For more information, readers may contact Kennedy at 806-1804 or rkennedy@quarryvillelibrary.org.

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