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Wickersham School of Discovery students piece together work of art

Wickersham School of Discovery teacher Ellen Carl pushes grout into the crevices between the glass pieces as she wipes down the students’ artwork. -  To view or buy photos go to www.courierherald.com      Photos by Brenda Sexton
Wickersham School of Discovery teacher Ellen Carl pushes grout into the crevices between the glass pieces as she wipes down the students’ artwork.
— image credit: To view or buy photos go to www.courierherald.com Photos by Brenda Sexton

Wickersham School of Discovery fifth-grade students were thrilled to discover the bear in the middle of a glass mosaic that will become a permanent fixture in the school was the creation of a fellow classmate.

While they were watching Gig Harbor artist Janice Wagner and School of Discovery art teacher Ellen Carl grout the piece, they learned one of the trees was taken from another student’s drawing, and the bee hive, other trees and elements in the finished artwork were those of other classmates.

“We took the elements from three or four students’ work and combined it for the final mosaic,” Carl said. “It was a cooperative effort.”

Carl said one of the other pieces, for example, which depicts a soaring eagle, combined the body of one student’s bird with the wings of another to complete the final 2-foot by 2-foot project.

The final mosaics, composed of shards of recycled glass, have been a group project from the beginning.

School of Discovery has been hosting Wagner as part of the Pierce County Artist in Residence program since Dec. 1. She was brought in through a Pierce County Arts Commission Artist in Residence grant and the school’s PTA.

The Artist In Residence Program places professional artists in public schools for two- to six-week projects. Artists work directly with students and instruct teachers on the integration of art into the curriculum before culminating with a community outreach event.

According to School of Discovery organizer Shauna Perez, Wagner is there to help expand the school’s mission of fostering creativity and the arts.

“We’re building school community, too,” Wagner said, “because so many students and teachers and parents were involved.

“It was so rewarding to see the kids so excited about it,” she said. “A public art project at this age gives them a sense of empowerment. They can do a project like this and have fun at it too.”

Wagner was teaching four different media to classes four hours a day. She used the four elements – earth, wind, water and fire – as the theme and matched animals with each element – fish, bear, raven and eagle – and then expanded the program to cover Native American culture with song, stories and movement. White River School District Native American Club leader Dorothy Apple helped with the Native American piece. The school was scheduled to wrap up the project Dec. 17 with Native American Culture Day, but with school canceled due to weather that was put off.

Each of the four mosaics will be placed on display in the building. There are also plans to make prints of the pieces to be sold at the school’s spring fundraising auction.

Perez said the project was aided by donations from the Muckleshoot and Puyallup tribes and Home Depot, which provided supplies to make the mosaic panel.

The colorful display of salmon that run along Mountain Meadow Elementary School were part of a similar project.

Reach Brenda Sexton at bsexton@courierherald.com or 360-802-8206.

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