The Art Of Safari

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Bill saying a few words thanking the kids for their hard work-Josiah Connelly EDIT

Special to the Citizen

Since 2001, the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art (STMA) has presented the “Creative Teens Earning Green” arts education program for students at Morgan County Crossroads School, as one leg of their Arts Outreach Program.  Weekly, the STMA teaching staff works with the Crossroads students, incorporating art history, studio art, resourcefulness, and community service into their art programming. Each year, the students make a variety of individual works highlighting different art mediums and techniques, createworks to be showcased at the Morgan County School District student exhibition A-FLAT, work with a visiting mentor artist, and the students work collaboratively on an art project that is installed at a public facility where it can be viewed and enjoyed by the community.  The art instructors at Crossroads, Elizabeth Collins and Chuck Hanes, and the Arts Outreach Coordinator at STMA, Amy Smoler, work together with personnel from the community partner to decide on a project and design that will reflect the purpose and mission of the facility where the art will be permanently installed, knowing that it will be something the facility will be proud to have on site. This year, this collaboration has resulted in a safari themed mosaic created for the Georgia Safari Conservation Park.

The Safari Mosaic represents a year’s collaborative work by over 30 students. After initial planning meetings, discussing both the subject and medium of the project, the teaching staff agreed that a mosaic would be the most appropriate medium. To incorporate an element of art history, the instructors began the project by discussing the medium of mosaic and how one is constructed; as visual inspiration our education staff had the students look at examples of ancient Roman Mosaics that focused on animals and natural imagery. Local artist Dottie Kurtz, who works in the medium of mosaic, acted as a mentor artist for the fall semester, working with the students to create small individual mosaics. A second source of inspiration was in the artwork of American artist Charley Harper, who was most known for his stylized illustrations of animals used by the National Park Service and the Cincinnati Zoo. The education staff agreed that it was important to reflect the animals and wildlife that would eventually be housed in the Conservation Park, and this idea was reinforced throughout the year through individual assignments and lesson plans. Staff worked with the students to determine which animals would be included in the mosaic and how they should be represented.  The teaching team places an emphasis on using recycled and found materials; this was fulfilled by using broken pottery pieces for the mosaic that were supplied by instructors Elizabeth Collins and Chuck Hanes, who are also potters.

The Crossroads students have participated in every aspect of the mosaic project:  from the initial brainstorming of animals to include in the mosaic, sketching and designing the panels of the mosaic, breaking the pieces of pottery that were utilized, and finally grouting and placing the tiles into the mosaic itself. This mosaic represents the culmination of this year’s collaborations and efforts. For more information about this project, or other outreach programs offered by STMA, please contact their Arts Outreach Coordinator Amy Smoler at 706-342-7557 or amy@steffenthomas.org.

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