Mt. Washington Archway
Baltimore, Maryland.

Mt. Washington Elementary School’s beautiful new Outdoor Classroom began as an old playground with condemned equipment! I worked with the energetic and visionary PTO to hold community art sessions to help people envision and create what they wanted to see in this space across the street from the school. Students, teachers, parents, community members – all had voice through art in sharing great ideas for the renovation.

With decisions made, two years of fundraising followed, enabling construction and landscaping in early 2008, including installation of amphitheater seating for classes, a beautiful labyrinth, water fountain, shrubs and flower plantings, and two huge pillars at the entrance to support a metal archway. These pillars were constructed as the base for mosaics to celebrate the joys of learning and play.

In anticipation of the mosaic work, we asked students and parents to create ceramic “popouts” with a nature theme at a Clay Night held in the spring of 2008. Working closely with the art teacher, the night yielded some 150 amazing creations. These were later glazed by the children, and fired at nearby Baltimore Clayworks.

During August and September 2008 I am affixing the popouts on the pillars using colored tile to accent them and mirror to make them dance and come alive. Each of the eight faces of the pillars has its own narrative based on the grouping of popouts; each pillar has a story to tell. Due to time and budget constraints, the mosaic itself is not being done with the children. But it has been such great fun to have them find their work and claim it, to have families stop by to look for their pieces and shine with pride in their creations!

Some of the works of art will be used in my next project: the pillars of the neighboring arboretum.

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