Fairbanks students piece together mosaic project

By Mary Beth Smetzer

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Published: Thursday, Feb. 10 2011 6:20 p.m. MST

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Flowers and bears, clouds and cabins, moose and eagles, birch trees and ravens — all are depicted in the spare detail of children's drawings, but with a twist. Each is rendered brightly in mosaic form with either tiny scraps of paper or glass.

A dozen of the large, colorful mosaics brighten the walls of the Woodriver Elementary School Commons area.

Soon, four similar, 3-foot by 5-foot panels made of cut glass, glued and grouted to cement boards, will be permanently displayed above the school's front entrance.

The design sheets and boards are the work of Woodriver students, who crafted under the artistic eye of Fairbanks printmaker Sara Tabbert, who has been teaching and encouraging students in grades K-6 for the past three weeks as an artist-in-residence.

"I think this says this is a school that loves children," said Leslie Dolan, an extended learning teacher at Woodriver who assisted Tabbert during the three-week project. "It is not a commission of an artist's work but the work of the school children."

Tabbert concurs.

"The purpose of the program is not the product, but about the kids working with a professional artist and it's about teaching them," Tabbert explained.

"I wanted to keep out my hand. I wanted this to look like kids' art, not my art."

The project started with the schoolchildren making drawings on paper.

Pieces and parts of the drawings were selected, projected on a screen and enlarged for the panels.

Images from all age levels were used, and all students were involved in creating the resulting artwork.

"The kids are so excited about this. It's a legacy for our school," Dolan said.

An afterschool art opening Friday, allowed parents and students to admire their artwork together.

"I like how we used our heart and our brain to create the pictures," said first-grader Larissa Seekins, 6.

Her older brother, Caleb, 8, a third-grader, got into the mechanics of the glass work.

"I liked how you crunched the glass with safety glasses on and tried to cut it into different shapes," he said.

Said first-grader Natalie Emers, 7, "I liked how our buddies (older students) helped us put on the tiles. It felt so good," she said.

Parent volunteer Tammi Seekins enjoyed watching the excited enthusiasm of students as they selected colors and arranged them in the paper and glass mosaics.

"The mosaics brighten the school, and the ideas were all generated by the kids," she said.

This is the fourth artist-in-the-school project Tabbert has led. One was a drawing project and three have resulted in tile installations at the schools, one inside and two outside.

Read more: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - Woodriver Elementary School students leave a lasting mark with mosaic project

Information from: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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