The Beauty of Making a Mosaic with KCHS Students

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There’s a lot of cutting glass this week at Kent County High School. That’s glass, with a “g.”

Throughout the week students have been cutting and gluing pieces of colored glass, mirror, and other material together to complete a complex glass mosaic with the hope of expressing a sense of place in their personal lives and the greater culture and beauty of the natural environment of Kent County.

The 6’ x 10’ mosaic, with a central tree motif with roots and branching limbs, is surrounded by clusters of images symbolizing elements that invigorate life on our part of the Eastern Shore. A blue crab, the white sails of Sultana, a winding river are just a few of the images that appear in the glinting formation.

“The roots of the tree represent our rich past, and the branches express our sense of all the possibilities life offers,” Spencer said.

The project idea was discussed two years ago by KCHS Fine Arts Department Chair and Visual Arts Teacher Stephanie Spencer and art advocate Tom McHugh during a period when the school system was enduring systemic changes in the county and looking for programs to underscore the positive. Never losing sight of wanting the project to happen, Spencer sought and received a state grant to cover half the cost. Along with fundraising help from Sultana’s “Evening With the Arts” and other school groups, the mosaic was finally greenlighted.

Sue Stockman and Stephanie Spencer and students

Spencer looked to practicing artist and arts advocate Sue Stockman to oversee the project. Stockman, an accomplished artist in her own right, has overseen over two-dozen mosaic projects throughout the state from Baltimore’s inner city to rural Talbot County and St. Michaels high schools, and to each, she brings a special sensibility of inclusion, equality, and respect of each other. She knows first-hand the therapeutic quality and joy of collaborative artistic endeavors having worked on mosaic projects in schools where students have suffered trauma from violence. The creative projects also give the students a space to come together and share in a mutual accomplishment far away from the white-noise of social media and anxiety of 24/7 news cycles.

“We start each session talking about our lives and the project. Everyone gets to speak as we try to create a culture of kindness so that we can begin to work together helping and encouraging each other along the way,” Stockman says. “I’m passionate about wanting to bring a sense of aesthetics into schools, to cut through some of the institutional coldness of them.”

As students circled the mosaic—another way of including everyone in the creative effort—they clipped and cut the jigsaw pieces of glass needed to follow Stockman’s underlying design. Each student was drawn to different aspects of the design, but all took part in the overall drive to complete it.

Well into its sixth day Thursday, the image was almost complete, but work was still needed to meet their 8 pm deadline and help, they hoped, would arrive from community members answering their invitation.

The mosaic will eventually be placed on the exterior of the building as a sparkling example of what can be accomplished by students unified by a common artistic goal. Hopefully, they will carry the spirit of collaboration with them.

The project was funded through the support of the Maryland State Arts Council and the Kent County Arts Council.

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