You can see his paintings in galleries in Bologna, Italy; New York City; Los Angeles; and locally at the Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Art, 450 Fremont St., Suite 280. However, Michael Cababe’s biggest exhibit is at Bracken Elementary School, 1200 N. 27th St.
Cababe became the school’s art teacher four years ago and transformed the campus into a canvas that he and his students add to each semester.
The faded, off-white walls of the 50-year-old school now are covered with art and learning tools. Last year students created a giant underwater scene with sea creatures on the side of one of the buildings. This year students will expand the mural to cover the sidewalk.
Other surfaces, inside and outside, feature information about Nevada and other states, and math terms with visual aids that kids are constantly exposed to as they walk to different classes.
Principal Kathleen Decker has been at the school for 11 years and said the students have benefited from having a professional artist as a teacher.
“(Cababe) has vision,” Decker said. “(He) has embraced our magnet theme and our idea of transforming our outdoor environment into an engaging artistic expression.
“It’s elementary school. It needs to look that way. Kids should be excited to come to school. It should feel like they’re going to Disneyland. Your school should look engaging. Kids are visual learners.”
Students also have taken greater interest in the school since more of them have a hand in it, Decker said. She said instances of graffiti have dwindled, too.
Fifth-graders Bianca Beltran and Mitzy Munoz said they transferred to Bracken, a magnet empowerment school, last year. They said they’ve noticed a drastic difference in Cababe’s approach compared to former teachers.
“I like Mr. Cababe because he lets us draw things that are unique to us,” Misty said. “He’ll let us express ourselves however we want and pour our imagination in the whole picture. Here they give us a lot more opportunity than my other school. They would just give us a little instruction and strictly tell us how to draw it.”
In a recent assignment, Cababe asked students to make a drawing explaining who they are. The only stipulation was they had to incorporate their initials somewhere on the paper.
Cababe, a southwest Las Vegas-area resident, also encourages some of his more gifted students to enter local and national contests, several of which they’ve won.
“He tells us what the assignment is, but you can make it whatever you want,” Bianca said. “He makes us feel fun in here.”
Cababe follows curriculum but said he always likes to give kids room to be creative.
“I hope these guys are getting something out of me,” he said. “I think I incorporate more technique … I want kids to dig deep into what comes into them. Some of the stuff they produce is just phenomenal.
“I don’t really like babying the kids. I like throwing them into the mix and let their mind kind of open up without telling them how to draw. … They always ask me, ‘Can I use this or that?’ What are you asking me for? You’re the artist.”
In his professional art career, Cababe focuses mostly on abstract expressionism. Some of his colleagues have become devoted collectors of his works. As he explained his art, he paints a subject, emotion or idea “the way I feel they should look using color.”
It can be a little tricky for him sometimes, though, because he’s colorblind. When he has trouble distinguishing greens, reds and browns, his students are always there to help him.
For a look at some of his work, visit cababestudios.com.
Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at email@example.com or 224-5524.