Lone Peak students work together to define community through glass art muralFeb 23, 2022 06:19PM ● By Julie Slama
The Lone Peak fused art mural, which will be unveiled this spring, was created from images students drew, such as their mascot, the eagle, right down to the three eggs in a nest. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Lone Peak fourth-grade student Tess Holmstead layered light pieces of green glass together while her friend Summer Jolley tried for a balance of the light and dark shades of green. Another fourth-grader Coleman Hurst put green glass together in a circular shape while his classmate, Jax Garrett, layered the glass from light green to darker shades.
It really didn’t matter how the glass was pieced, said fourth-grader Tatum Kirskey.
“It’s just fun doing it,” he said.
The students were creating trees out of small pieces of glass as part of the school’s fused glass art project. Those will be included in a community mural that will be unveiled this spring and hung as a permanent piece in the school’s art collection.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity that every student in the school can work together to create an awesome piece of artwork than will last longer than the years they’ll be here at the school,” Lone Peak Elementary artist-in-residence Allison Klinger said. “They can come back, see this art mural and be reminded of the time they had creating this and being here at school.”
The mural is designed from drawings students created last fall to portray what the Lone Peak community means to them. Several students drew the school building, a school bus, children together on the playground, eagles (the school mascot), hearts, rainbows, trees, mountains and deer. Klinger merged those drawings into one design that now the students are creating right down to the number of bricks in the school building.
“The idea is that when you come to our school, you can look at the mural and get a sense of what we believe our community is,” said Cassie Walker, Lone Peak’s 2019 teacher of the year and Beverley Taylor Sorenson art teacher who came up with the concept and is coordinating the effort. “A lot of the drawings showed togetherness, like kids holding hands and playing at recess. We pulled those repeating themes of supporting and working together out of their drawings, so there will be a representation of that as well as our physical community.”
The more detailed and difficult elements, such as the eagles and eggs in the nest and the school bus, Klinger created and shared with 700 students in January, when each grade had the opportunity to create pieces of the mural, such as the mountains or trees. Kindergartners will add “sprinkles” or last finishing touches, to the mural to “add a little bit of whimsy to it,” Walker said.
After creating their part for the mural, students also had the opportunity to create a 2-inch by 2-inch ornament of small glass chips that will be fused and they can have as a keepsake, a reminder of learning about fused glass artwork and creating the community mural.
“It’s really important students have a personal project they’ll be able to take home to remember and enjoy,” Klinger said. “They understand the concept and the mural will hang here at the school, but having the glass fuse together in the hot kiln is magical and with that keepsake, they’ll have a piece of this experience to enjoy at home.”
Lone Peak fifth-grade teacher Bill Pritchard said his students embraced the project.
“This is so cool,” he said. “One kid said he doesn’t get to touch broken glass at home, so this broadens their perspective to have this experience. Many of them are excited to create the school mural and equally wanting to be creative in their own abstract.”
Walker agrees: “It’s really unique and rare kids create with glass. It’s so novel that it’s hard for them to contain their excitement. It’s really cool.”
Students rotated in the art classroom every half-hour on two days in January to add pieces to the mural. Afterward, Klinger took them to her art studio, Western Art Glass, to fire them in her kiln. The pieces then will be mounted into a single frame, which will be hung between the gymnasium and cafeteria toward the front of the school. Accompanying it will be a QR code that visitors can scan and learn the back story of the piece.
“Because the students create the pieces and Allison puts them together, it will be more authentic since students are the ones designing it. At the end of the day, we really want kids to look at it and know they actually created it, and that their ideas are used and a professional artist helping to facilitate that,” Walker said.
The year-long activity was to include a kick-off assembly to walk students through the process, but as COVID-19 cases in the Lone Peak community reached higher numbers, assemblies and volunteers were curtailed.
Instead, Walker and Kerri Hopkins, who directs the University of Utah College of Fine Arts BridgeArts program and specializes in film technology, filmed what was supposed to happen at the assembly at Klinger’s studio. This film will continue to document the entire process of the fused glass mural to share what students learn about working with glass as an art form, as well as the process of putting their ideas and drawings in the community mural.
“We want the community and our parents to understand the power in this process—not necessarily we’ve got this piece hanging in our hallway, but also what we have learned along the way and how we strengthened our community through this process,” Walker said. “It will document students’ designs, what they value, and steps along the way. It will connect our parents to the story behind the art—that they see and hear the kids’ thought process behind the experience and getting to work with a professional artist and come together to create something really big for the school.”
The mural and film are expected to be on display at the school’s annual art night, scheduled for March 28.
Walker also shared a shorter film, so students had a behind-the-scenes tour of the studio and learned more about Klinger as an artist from how she got into the field to her recent restoration of the glass windows in Salt Lake City’s Union Station that were damaged by the 2020 earthquake.
The idea to work with glass is something Walker has questioned while working with Lone Peak students. She had learned how to work with glass as an art form from Klinger, so she reached out to her, and learned Klinger previously had worked with students at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School in Salt Lake City. However, the cost was out of her elementary school art budget, so she shelved the idea.
Then last year, a parent wanted a special memento for fifth-graders since a traditional promotion wasn’t held because of the pandemic and asked Walker for suggestions. With private funds, the 125 fifth-grade students created capstone glass art projects.
With success from that experience, and the support of the school community council and Principal Tracy Stacy, the decision was made at the beginning of the school year to use $13,000 in land trust funds to create this permanent installation.
“Cassie came to me with the idea and just hearing it, I was on board,” Stacy said. “It’s a wonderful collaboration between students, a professional artist, our art teacher, classroom teachers. We’re bringing art in with our science, literacy, math and social studies and it engages students. It will bring color and light to our building. It’s just going to be stellar.”
It isn’t the first time a permanent piece of art has been created by students. In Walker’s first year of teaching, six years ago, students created a tile artwork that is hung in the office.“I love pieces the kids create and sharing their vision,” Walker said. “There has been a lot of division right now and it trickles down to the kids when it’s talked about at the dinner table. Kids come here and it’s repeated. So, we really focused on what can we do to strengthen our Lone Peak community and bring everyone together and I think this is something that has really brought us together. The kids are excited about it, and it will be a lasting