JEFFERSONVILLE — In a display case at Spring Hill Elementary School, a miniature cityscape features towering skyscrapers and vehicles constructed of glue and paper. But it's not just a typical city scene — if you look closely, you'll also find tanks and "Star Wars" replica ships.
These paper creations are the work of fifth-grader Derrick Brown, a special needs student at Spring Hill Elementary in Jeffersonville. The 11-year-old has impressed the school with his artistic talent, whether he is creating tall buildings, cars or spaceships, and his three-dimensional work is exhibited in a case near the entrance of the building.
Brown said he enjoys using glue and scissors to put together his paper replicas.
"I love all these artworks," he said. "I love artwork to build."
Derek Deakin, special education teacher at Spring Hill, has taught Brown since kindergarten, and he started noticing Brown's artistic interests a couple years ago. The student creates his own artwork both at school and at home, and he's happy to show off his work at school, he said.
"He came in and started cutting paper and doing weird stuff with it," he said. "That’s the best way to describe it. He is very creative — it wasn’t like we said do this or that. He just comes up with his own ways to do it."
Christian Rice, Brown's mother, said her son has been fascinated in art for a long time, and he would observe as his older sister sketched her own artwork. He wanted to start building, and he would use any paper he could find.
"He looks at anything that is put in front of him, and he observes," she said. "I show him pictures of helicopters and army tanks, and he replicates it on paper. You'd be surprised at how much paper we have to throw away after he cuts it up."
Deakin has been excited to see Brown's growth over the past few years — he just started creating more and more replicas, and he'll create large, complex pieces in just a day.
"When I first got him, he could hardly write, and he could hardly cut anything, " Deakin said. "Over the years, he's just progressed so much more where he's now able to create these things. I was amazed, really."
Kirsten Larson, art teacher at Spring Hill, will often print out pictures to inspire Brown's artwork, including images from "Star Wars." Although he frequently creates replicas inspired by the series, he actually has never seen the films, she said. Since he didn't know the names of the ships he was making, she printed out pictures of them with their names.
At the beginning of the school year, Brown brought a backpack full of paper car replicas and dumped it out on his classroom table. Larson was impressed by the creative way he constructed the cars.
"What was really neat about it was he didn’t have any glue, and he figured out how to make axils to keep the wheels of the cars on," she said. "The axil goes underneath the car, and then there’s a slit in the wheel, and the wheels go in the axil."
Deakin said he is happy that Brown has found a way to express his creativity.
"It gives him something to have that uses imagination, and plus he can get that outlet of doing special things," he said. "It just gives him an outlet to do different things other than watch TV."
Brown's friends enjoy viewing his artwork, and one of his friends was inspired to start drawing, Deakin said. He has also motivated his 6-year-old brother to start making his own creations from paper, according to Rice.
Her son's artwork keeps getting bigger, she said. He has even created a replica of downtown Louisville that included both bridges and buildings.
"It helps him, keeps him busy — he's not bored at all. It keeps him away from the TV, which is a good thing. If it's too hot outside, it gives him something to do. We tried legos [in addition to] paper, and he does pretty good, but he's more interested in building with things that bend and fold."