Upon entering the Oswego Middle School art room, immediately visitors’ attention is turned toward a massive ceramic sea aquarium mural.
Student teacher Cassandra Mazur has conducted a collaborative project with seventh- and eighth-graders to create a lasting memory for students.
“Over the course of the last month the 140-piece ceramic mural was created by a group of 93 students. The mural measures 6 by 8 feet,” she said.
“It focuses on collaborative community art. It began with a simple idea and transformed into students learning about group collaboration, ceramic tile making and personal artistic expression. The story of this mural is about imagining a vision, believing in all possibilities, working with others, trusting the process and spreading inspiration,” she said.
Initially, the project began by introducing students to ceramic tile murals found throughout history and in everyday life.
“I created a full size ocean themed drawing of the mural to provide a solid framework for the students to work from. Students spent the next two weeks sculpting the tiles,” Mazur said.
“They were given templates of the larger design to trace on to the clay tiles. That design would become altered and personalized by students through various sculpting techniques.
“This process allowed students to apply their own unique style and artistic fingerprint to the tiles which in turn made the work unique and one of a kind,” she said.
Students then spent another week glazing and adding color to the tiles. The seventh-graders were in charge of glazing the border tiles, which include the words “Inspire, Love, Imagine, Create, Dream and Believe,” while the eighth-graders were assigned to specific tiles according to their artistic styles.
Those who preferred detailed work were in charge of painting the fish, turtles and smaller coral reef. Others who preferred to work at a faster pace were assigned to water and the larger coral reef.
Mazur said this was a positive experience as “You never heard ‘I’m not artistic’ because everyone was helping each other through the process and fully contributed their own unique abilities.”
Erin Platten, an Oswego Middle School art teacher, was extremely positive concerning the experience.
“She came to me with this huge idea of creating a mural. I could see the passion she had and the excitement, and I do love a good challenge and new opportunities for my students,” Platten said. “She worked very hard to design the project, and put endless hour and purchased many materials.”
“We had many discussions along the way about the process and the outcome and we both learned a lot. I really enjoyed the experience and watching my students learn and grow from a totally different perspective,” Platten said. “They really seemed to enjoy the overall project and it is a lot of fun to watch students, faculty and staff come into my room and ogle over the mural. I can see it being a conversation piece for years to come.”
Mazur noted there is further credit that needs to be given.
“Once we had all the tiles fired and out of the kiln, they were ready to be installed,” she said. “Albert Lemire, an employee of Raby’s ACE Hardware story in Oswego, donated his time to install the mural on the wall. The final mural would not have been possible without him.”
Patten noted, “The mural is beautiful and a real testament to Cassie’s love and devotion for teaching. She will be a wonderful teacher, and I think that by beginning big and being successful she will go forth and do amazing things.””