One piece at a time

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Students celebrate school history while studying mosiacsonepiece

BY Deacon Tom Picciano
sun contributing writer

BINGHAMTON — A type of mural used for thousands of years to record history will soon make an appearance on the wall outside the office at St. John’s School.

The mosaic was developed as part of a 60th anniversary memorial for the school.

Art and technology teacher Jenn Crissey learned of a grant through the Arts Partners program of Broome and Tioga Counties that helps fund the project. Administered through the Discovery Center in Binghamton, the program makes use of New York State Council on the Arts funding for arts in education. Schools partner with artists or cultural organizations for study of arts and non-arts subjects.

Recent progress is evident in the school’s art room. More than a dozen 7th graders  began working hard on a variety of panels from the moment they entered the room. Pieces of ceramic were cut to fit in outlined shapes on mesh backing. Glue was applied to the chips and glass rocks, which were then carefully pressed onto the fabric.

Initial work on several panels has already been completed. A dove on a blue background is on two separate panels. A larger panel shows a cross complete with “St. John‘s School,” the opening year of 1949 and the current year of 2010.

“There are kids who just shine in here,”  Crissey said. “They don’t always shine in other classes.”

Two girls were working on an early Christian symbol. “We’re making the fish,” said McCayla Kenny. “We take the stick with the glue on it and we put it on the side with the ridges and then you just place it.” At her side was Leanna Marcello, cutting tiles. “It’s fun,” she said as she maneuvered the special tool. “When you cut it, you have to position it at angles.”

Across the table Alicia Lindsley worked solo on a star. There were clear silver stones on the bottom, and she placed silver tiles on the top. She explained that it was easy to follow the pattern that had been drawn out. “Really it’s what fits best in there,” she said. “We’re just doing something that makes our school a better a place, and we’re kind of proud to do something to put on our school wall.”

Artist Yvonne Lucia prepared the panels and picked out the colors that students have been using to make the mosaic. Lucia has worked with several other schools in the Art Partner’s Grant program. Prior to St. John’s, she helped fourth grade students at Binghamton’s Roosevelt Elementary School design and install a mosaic in the school lobby.

St. John’s student Monika Henkle completed work on Noah’s Ark. On the top deck there were two giraffes and just one elephant. “The other elephant is hiding behind this,” she said, pointing to the cabin on the middle of the ark and using a bit of imagination. “I think it’s a great opportunity to do this.”

Three boys worked on the school motto: DREAM, BELIEVE AND ACHIEVE.

“It is the beginning of our school slogan,” said Matt Testani as he carefully applied dark tiles to the letter “D.” Across the table, Adam Gordon was applying a generous amount of glue to tiles that will eventually make up the word “Believe.”

“It’s fun,” he said, “we’ve done this before with paper, but not glass pieces.”

Connor Foley hadn’t quite yet achieved completion of the word “Achieve.”

“The background is all brown for all of these. The letters are all black,” he said.    “It’s really cool and it’s going to be here as long as the school is here.”

That’s part of the message of learning through the mosaic mural project. Crissey wrote in the grant proposal that the mosaic “will be a school community project that will be a timeless piece of artwork that students will work cooperatively on. The mosaic will celebrate the school’s 60th anniversary while showing student understanding of the long history of mosaics as well as the process of creating the murals.”

The project also ties in with the Roman Catholic faith. In addition to symbols such as the dove, cross and the fish there’s a chalice. “We will look at many examples of mosaics in cathedrals and how Catholic art began,” Crissey wrote.

Mosaics were first used before the time of Christ. But Christians adopted the style in churches throughout the centuries. Some of the earliest church mosaics still exist.

“Students will understand that mosaics were created to show the community’s closeness to God and their worship together.“ she wrote.

While much has been completed, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Once all the tile and stones are glued, the students will work with the artist to grout the tile. Then it will be put on wooden panels that will allow the mosaic mural to be moved. That’s because there are more ideas that could fill the space.

“I can only say how grateful we are to have this,” Crissey said. “They’ve never done anything like this in art before. Next year I’d like to get another grant. I’d like to do this every year, a mosaic every year.”

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