The Vindicator
March 2002

Pupils create a work of mythical proportions

The sculptures will be placed in the atrium of the new SMARTS Center and in front of Liberty’s middle school building. By Laurie M. Fisher, Vindicator correspondent

Multiple renderings of mythic creatures are scattered across a drawing table in the sculpture studio at Youngstown State University. In some drawings, eyes and horns bulge from one side of a skull while a beak forms the shape of a smile on the opposite facade. Ceramic models sport appendages that include paws, wings, claws and a mermaid tale.

The artistic studies are the first works of a collaborative effort that includes art pupils and teachers from W. S.Guy Middle School in Liberty and Hayes Middle School in Youngstown. The pupils are working with California ceramic sculptor Trisha Kyner and figurative metal sculptor David Friedheim, who traveled to Youngstown to create two whimsical sculptures for public display.

The project is coordinated by SMARTS, a literacy arts program that is a partnership between YSU College of Fine and Performing Arts, the Beeghly College of Education, the Yongstown City School District and area arts organizations. The Educational Sculpture Project is the first partnership between SMARTS and a Trumbull County school.

Display: The 8-by-8 ceramic and cement creature will find a home among the trees in front of W. S.Guy Middle School in Liberty at the end of next week.

A two-headed flying papier-mache and wire sculpture created by Hayes students will reside in the atrium of the new SMARTS Center, in the Youngstown Symphony Center’s Alder Art Academy. The more than yearlong collaboration is a multilevel arts and literacy learning process for pupils, teachers and professional artists.

In addition to following the project from drawings to assembly to installation, pupils write their won mythology to give the creatures a history. This week Guy pupils will vote on a name and story that will explain the creature’s origins and physical features.

Working together: The professional artists and pupils found that collaborative efforts produce
admirable results they couldn’t accomplish separately. In January, pupils were asked to use words to describe their creation. Carol Gallo’s seventh-graders at W.S.Guy agreed on “strong, intelligent and welcoming.”

The next step was for pupils to draw body parts and mold clay sculptures to reflect their ideas. They took digital photos and then transmitted the images to California artists Kyner and Friedheim.

In their Oakland studio, the artists synthesized the work and relayed their ideas back to the Youngstown classrooms. When they came to Youngstown on March 1 to begin the three-week artist in residency program, Kyner and Friedheim presented ideas to each of the art classes involved.

During a class field trip to the YSU studio last week, four W. S.Guy pupils examined the chicken wire and metal rod armature they recognized as part of their fish tale design.

Kayla Ingram explained that they came up with the whale tale shape because they needed something to balance the legs and paws on the opposite side of the creature. Ashley Lopez noted that the group experimented with many versions until they discovered a shape and size that worked.

“It’s harder than it looks” to create a sculpture, added Michael Damioli.

Pupils gained appreciation of the structure as well as artistic qualities necessary to create work.

“Artists work harder than you may think”, said Mychal Doblanski.

Besides the armature, or structure, pupils learned ceramic techniques to form the colorful shapes that will adorn the creature’s charcoal-colored cement skin. Because of the size and weight of the sculpture, the body was designed to be assembled in three pieces.

The Hayes creation is a two-headed flying dragon-like creature made of papier-mache. One head is a Cyclops with a long wavy tongue. After pupils observed the lighter weight armature in the YSU sculpture studio, they worked with Hayes teacher Steve Beck in their art class to create pointed scales for the sculpture’s underbelly.

A first: This is the first project where the artists have worked specifically with school children. Friedheim said he enjoys the pupil’s openness and spontaneity.

“The children are interested in expression and activity. They learn that sculpture is different than drawing. Sculpture happens in real space. If it is not balanced, it falls. If it is weak, it breaks”, he said.

“The project is a true artistic collaboration. This is difficult in any project, especially one that involves two sculptures, 100 middle school students and a 2,500-mile distance between the collabor- ators”, said Kelly Bancroft, SMARTS coordinator.

Pupils participate in the educational process on many levels, said Gallo, who explained her motivation for getting involved in such a large project.

“I wanted to show students what it was like to do a collaborative. As a partnership they can do more together. We can make things we couldn’t have done independently”, she said.

Financial supporters include SMARTS, the Youngstown/Mahoning Valley United Way, the Youngstown Rotary, John Lightfoot, Cedar Steel, Giant Eagle, Hearn Paper and the YSU Art Department.




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