Tuesday, October 26, 1999

Mason students' creativity flies high

Vinyl scraps become kite sculpture

Enquirer Contributor

        MASON — Second-graders Lucas White, Scott Strait and A.J. Spaeth sat at a back table in the art room at Mason Heights Elementary School on Monday, surrounded by brightly colored scraps of vinyl, each child cutting out a favorite shape using rounded safety scissors.

        Before them sat a 24- to 30-inch-long, kite-shaped piece of metal once used as a road sign by the Ohio Department of Transportation. It was the boys' task to cover the kite with the vinyl shapes — the same vinyl used on school buses and outdoor signs — before a similarly decorated metal tail was bolted on.

        The kite is one of several metal forms that will be bolted onto six metal Olympic rings and then mounted on a 30-foot wooden pole outside the school's art room. The design was created by the students under the supervision of Indiana artist Joe LaMantia.

        Every child in the school — and many parents — will have participated in the creation of the sculpture by the time it is finished Thursday, when Mr. LaMantia ends a 10-day artist in residency program.

        “The hardest part is the cutting,” said Lucas, 7, scrunching his face while cutting a tiny blue circle. “I'm trying to cut littler.”

        Scott likened the work they were doing to putting stickers in a book.

        “It's fun because I like using stickers a lot and these are kind of like stickers,” said Scott, 7.

        The theme, Reaching for the Heights, follows the school's theme, said art teacher Kerry Kronenberger.

        The sculpture incorporates the school's name with one of the children's favorite spring activities — their Olympic games.

        The children traced objects that remind them of heights — butterflies, spaceships, birds and hot air balloons — onto rolled metal that was cut out by students at Scarlet Oaks Vocational School.

        The Mason Heights first- and second-graders painted each of the objects and added vinyl where appropriate. The shapes and kites will be bolted onto the metal rings — 12 bolts on each ring — and then the rings will be mounted on the pole.

        The children painted the pole purple with circles of colors. It will be set 5 feet into the ground today.

        “I like the fact that the children get to be part of the collaboration,” said parent Michelle Heywood, who helped cut vinyl strips with her daughter Katie's first-grade class. “They had to work together to make sure we didn't have any bubbles.”

        Flexibility and involving all the children was the key to the project's success, Mr. LaMantia said.

        “I think it's great for this age to be around this process,” said Mr. LaMantia, dressed in a paint-splattered jumpsuit, during a break. “We're a team. As an artist, I want to create a professional product. As a teacher, I want the children to enjoy the process as much as the product. This is something they'll come back to because they had a part in it.”

        The bottom of the sculpture will have removable vinyl flags representing the countries that participate in the Olympics. Families made the flags during a community workday Saturday.


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