Welcome to ColorWheels!
I'm Betsy Etchart, the founder of ColorWheels Mobile Art Room.
2023 marks my seventh year of art-making with kids (of all ages!) at Colorwheels.
ColorWheels originated as a panic response to my four-year-old's first show-and-tell.
As a starter mom, I didn't know I could reach under the sofa and pull out pretty much anything that would fascinate the preschool crowd. So instead, I raided the recycle bin. I hadn't done a lot of arting since earning a degree in art & art history back in the late 20th century. But coaxing 50-month-old Malcolm to help stick cracker boxes and toilet paper tubes together led me to two epiphanies. 1: these activities were well beyond his skill set. And 2: they exactly fit mine. As I welded the glue gun, duct tape, and a variety of knives, the robot became more and more elaborate. It grew a twirly antenna and giant feet. It developed articulated arms and then a secret stomach compartment for secret stuff.
Show and Tell came and went, and Malcolm played with his new toy. He made it walk and talk and he put the stuff that had been under the sofa in its secret compartment.
And then it broke.
And then I fixed it.
A toy I could FIX! I was used to made-in-China plastic that I couldn't throw out without feeling 1.ineffective and 2. irresponsible. So this fixing-a-toy thing was empowering. I made more.
Since then (2012), I've brought the Recycle Robot League to schools and festivals in the West Valley of Phoenix, where I help kids (and their grown ups) build their own (often kinetic) sculptures out of the recycle bin. Kiddos nine and up can largely build their own (although I'm still the only one allowed to use the serrated knife and Dremel), while those in the 5-and-under set act as Artistic Director while I do their bidding with the dangerous tools.
Reminded that I loved making art, I said yes when, in 2015, West Valley Arts Council and Estrella Mountain Community College offered me a position as a Master Artist for Gallery 37, a national program that unites teenage artists with established artists to create public works of art. I worked with another Master Artist and mosaic expert Leslie Scott, helping her lead 20 high school students design and build "Chelonia," a large-scale mosaic for the new splashpad in Avondale's Friendship Park.