Artist Allan Winkler’s whimsical paper and metal cut-outs of people and animals are instantly recognizable. A 1975 graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, his style has been described as "deliberately naïve."
Winkler, a Chicago native, is also an accomplished teacher and drummer. He's taught classes and workshops to students ages kindergarten through college as well as playing with the Afrobeat collective Hearts of Darkness and the Indonesian percussion ensemble Gamelan Genta Kasturi.
For a series called “Artists in their Own Words,” artist Allan Winkler talks about designing a new mural tucked inside a school cafeteria.
Alan Winkler's connection with Kansas City charter school Academie Lafayette began as a parent about a dozen years ago.
"At that time the school was extremely small; it was French immersion, it still is," recalls Winkler. "I was the substitute teacher. Eventually I became the art teacher (a position he no longer holds)."
Winkler says he thought it would be nice to give something back. And when he saw the cafeteria for the school's new Cherry Street campus, he thought, "This would be a fun place to paint. It's very big, and I envisioned little kids eating here."
"I was given completely free rein," he adds. "And all the paint I could use."
Painting to an Afrobeat
This fall, Academie Lafayette opens a second campus for K - 2 students in the former Longan Elementary School. Parents, staff, and community volunteers have been painting, cleaning, and installing a new playground.
Over the last two months, Winkler created a mural in the school cafeteria, with a little assistance from parent volunteers. His two children, Emma and Eli, also stopped by to help. But it's mostly music that's been keeping him company.
"I love music of all kinds," said Winkler. "And I've been listening to it."
Musical selections include everything from opera and classical (Mozart, Beethoven) to Cajun and zydeco music.
"The last time I was here (at the school), I worked to Beethoven's 9th Symphony," he said. "Today, I have some amazing African music (his favorites: Fela Kuti, Ladysmith Black Mombazo and Thomas Mapfumo) playing."
'Fantasy Painting': Nonsensical Animals, Aliens and More
Allan Winkler says he didn't map out a plan for the walls. "Every day, I'd come in here and start painting and see what happened," he said.
While driving to the school to work on the mural, Winkler says he was struck by a bumper sticker with the words "Celebrate Diversity."
In some ways, that slogan sums up his imagery: "There are paintings with people walking on their hands. There's a giant cat portrait. And a purple elephant. There's a zebra with yellow shoes on."
"There's these dancing men that are twisted like pretzels. There's a man who came out out of the fire; he's a fire man. There's an abstract figure. There are people from other planets."
For Winkler, "(It's) just a fantasy painting."
Allan Winkler's mural, "A Celebration of Diversity" is located in the cafeteria of Academie Lafayette's K - 2 campus (formerly Longan Elementary School, KCPS), 3421 Cherry St, Kansas City, MO.
A grand opening for the public scheduled for First Friday, September 7, 2012, 4 - 6 pm.
The “Artists in Their Own Words” series is supported by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.