Leaving a Legacy!

Each year my 8th grade students complete a collaborative artwork that will decorate the school and help students "leave their legacy" behind when they graduate.  I have seen legacy projects completed in several of the schools I've worked in and visited over the years, so when I started teaching art at Hester I asked if I could implement such a program.  My idea was well received, so the next step was to get to work!


The first step is choosing an artwork that suits the personality of the class.  Students my first year were eager to dive right in and tackle projects in mediums they had never used before, so it seemed fitting to recreate one of Monet's bridges.  I chose "Japanese Bridge" from 1900 because of the beautiful, rich colors.  The industrial arts teacher was generous enough to cut out 161 4" x 6" pieces of Masonite for students to paint their part on.  The final painting size was not the same aspect ratio as the original painting, so I had to crop it slightly.  After about 1/2 hour of calculating ratios with the help of a couple students, we finally figured out how big to cut each row from the prints I ordered. (Hint: get two prints! One to cut up, and one to use for reference) Students primed their piece of Masonite and got to work trying to enlarge their assigned piece of the painting.  Each trimester, every 8th grade student pulled a piece out of the bucket and painted it.  What a nerve wracking project!  All year we worked on this project, all the while having to keep the faith that it would come together in the end!  Finally, as the end of the year approached, we started putting the final work together.  Of course there were a few kids from each trimester that I had to track down to complete their portion, but classroom teachers were very supportive about sending them to my room to finish their portion of the painting. (I am blessed to be at such a great school!) As I stood on my table looking at the completed piece from above, I knew all the hard work was worth it! As I presented the board to 8th grade at the awards assembly, I started to tear up as I challenged them to not "stop at the riverbank, but build bridges to their dreams."

Here is the final work installed in the main stairwell (Did I mention it's 4' x 8'?):

The following year I chose Edvard Munch's "The Scream of Nature" from 1893.  My class that year had a loud, contagious, exuberance about them that was fitting of this work.  To up the ante, as I so often love to do, students not only recreated their part of the painting, but superimposed a ghostly portrait of themselves on top!  We took their photographs in the "scream" pose, printed them out and used transfer paper to take off some of the pressure.  I didn't want to crop too much of the image out, so I had about 16 pieces extra that staff members graciously completed- our superintendent even participated!  I was worried that with the added superimposed portrait that the image wouldn't come together, so I lightly sketched out major color shifts on the chipboard pieces before I cut and labeled them- our industrial arts lab was converted to a STEM lab, so I didn't have access to a table saw.  The chipboard worked out well since it was much lighter and made it easier to install! 

Here's the project as we approached the end of the year: 

And a little later: 

And even later:

Complete! Installed in the front entry to the school.

I'm not sure if I can top this one, but I'm sure going to keep trying! As soon as I fill every nook and cranny of the school- we will start trying to auction these beauties off at the yearly education foundation fundraiser.  But to be honest, I'm not sure how I will be able to part with these! This year we are reproducing Van Gogh's "Starry Night". Be on the lookout for the finished product come May! 




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