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Artists in residence help students design and craft an all-school mural for front of OPE building

COURTESY PHOTO - Veronica Reeves and Jennifer Hanson stand in front of a new mural that will be officially unveiled at Otto Petersen Elementary School next week. Students at the school helped design the mural and handcraft tiles to make up the mosaic pattern.A new student-designed tile mosaic will be unveiled at the entrance of Otto Petersen Elementary School next week, Wednesday, June 21.

The mosaic, which will adorn the front entrance of the building, is the result of a months-long collaboration between students and artists mentors who have been working with the school to create a sense of artistic literacy among students.

In late December, Veronica Reeves and Jennifer Hanson, both artists-in-residence at Otto Petersen, had the idea to create a tile mosaic on the front wall of the building using ideas generated from the students who show up there every day. Previously, a large building map was printed on the wall and was removed for safety reasons last school year. The large gray wall was like a blank canvas.

"We wanted every student to feel like a participant, so right off the bat we started calling it a 'community collaborative mural,'" Reeves said. And because of that idea, we thought instead of us coming up with our own idea, we would ask students to submit their own designs."

Students were asked to submit proposals, much like professional artists do when competing for a public art commission, Reeves explained.

COURTESY PHOTO - Cordelia Hanson, a sixth-grader at Otto Petersen Elementary School and the daughter of Jennifer Hanson, holds up a 2-by-2-inch paper square which has an original drawing on it, and a 6-by-6-inch square which she transposed using paints and 3-D objects. The larger square was then scanned and printed on a ceramic tile for the mural.When they received 140 designs from various fourth- through sixth-graders, they decided to take components of 14 submissions to craft a collage-style mosaic.

The design was then printed on a poster and cut into 570 square pieces. During a series of workshops in February and March, every student at the school was given a 2-by-2-inch square cutout of the poster and asked to transpose it onto a larger 6-by-6-inch paper square using a variety of art supplies. Students used everything from oil pastels and watercolors to 3-D objects like plastic beads and tree limbs to decorate their tiles.

Hanson and Reeves then digitally scanned each square design and had it printed on a ceramic tile to be installed in the final mural.

Principal Whitney Hessong said the beauty of creating a mural this way is that if a tile becomes damaged, it's easy to reorder a new tile print.

She said the project instills a sense of appreciation for the arts in education.

"I'm really impressed and appreciative that in a time that's so focused on testing and student results and academic endeavors, it's been really great to see so many people really wrap around the arts, because I think both are so valuable," Hessong said.

An official unveiling of the mural will take place next week during the Otto Petersen Art Show. The show will also feature a bake sale, a showing of 1,000 art pieces crafted by students throughout the school year, a performance by young student musicians in the Scappoose Band Mentors program, and a 3-D multimedia puppet show. Original design concepts for the mural created by students will also be on display.

Hanson and Reeves are also organizing an interactive art installation in which community members and families can participate.

"So, you're not only gonna come and see the mural, listen to the mentors play, see the art, buy a cupcake — you're also going to participate in an art class," Hanson said.

Hanson and Reeves are excited about the show and seeing students, families and community members celebrate.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the kids delight in showing their families what they've done," Reeves said.

Financial support for the project came from the Otto Petersen Parent Organization. The bake sale will serve as a fundraiser to help offset the cost of the mural installation.

Creative makeups

When winter snowstorms caused nine school day cancellations, the school district had to make up educational hours by eliminating some Monday late-starts and extending the school year by five days. Hessong wanted to ensure those days were put to good use and incorporated a schoolwide lesson plan into the end of the school year.

In advance of the art show, Otto Petersen students were scheduled to take part in a two-day art-making workshop during the last week of school Monday and Tuesday, June 19 and 20. Various artists from the community hosted 75-minute teaching sessions with students. The students chose from nine different artforms, including pencil drawing and meditative water coloring. Hessong, who paints anime, also taught one of the workshops.

"It's been a really nice way to end the year and make back that time in a way that's academic, but also a unique experience for the kids," Hessong said.

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