Sculpture in the City: Artist works with Governor French students

News-DemocratMarch 11, 2014 

Art on the Square guest artist Marina Lee visited Gov. French Academy students on Tuesday, who were assisting her with another of her unique projects. It's all part of the High School Sculpture in the City program, where artists spend time with local students prior to the annual Art on the Square festival.

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— Governor French Academy students with wet, sticky modeling compound in their hands went to work forming trees on two different sculptures under the direction of sculptor Marina Lee of Milwaukee, Wis.

Lee traveled more than seven hours to work with Governor French this week for Art on the Square's fourth annual High School Sculpture in the City Program.

Lee helped students design two sculptures Monday, and the hard work of creating the sculptures began Tuesday and will continue through Wednesday.

The sculpture includes a large functional bench and a wall-mount. Lee described it as a "narrative piece" with a message.

She asked the students what they wanted to communicate with the community. "They didn't want any separation and wanted positive things to happen," Lee said.

The core design team at Governor French includes students in grades sixth through 12. However, Lee also involved the younger students in the project.

The sculpture bench incorporates a large tree with its roots spelling out the word "Family." The wall-mounted sculpture includes a smaller tree, flames and two moons.

The sculptures are created with a plywood base and then spray foam is sculpted to build the forms and then its covered in a modeling compound.

"It's a very hands-on project," said Lee, who was covered in white residue from the modeling compound. "They (the students) have done a really great job with it. I think they are learning a lot."

Lee enjoys working with students. She said she's collaborated with more than 100 schools. "It's really exciting," she said.

Once the forms are completed, Lee will take both sculptures back to her studio in Wisconsin.

Lee and her associates will then cover the sculptures in fiberglass to protect them from the elements as both will be housed outdoors at Governor French following this year's Art on the Square, which will be held May 16-18.

In April, Lee will bring the sculptures back to Governor French for the students to paint. "They will all have a say in the colors," Lee said.

Dede Farquhar with Art on the Square, who was at Governor French Tuesday, looks forward to seeing the finished product. "This will really be a showcase piece," Farquhar said.

The annual High School Sculpture in the City program, created in 2010 by Art on the Square, is sponsored by the Belleville law firm Mathis, Marifian and Richter, Ltd.

"We believe in the value of art in the community especially at the student level," said Pat Mathis, a shareholder at the law firm.

To date, the High School Sculpture in the City program has worked with students at Belleville West, Belleville East and Althoff Catholic high schools. Each school has on exhibit the unique piece that was created.

"We are extremely pleased to have been selected to participate in this year's High Sculpture in the City Program," said Phillip Paeltz, headmaster at Governor French Academy. "What our students' gain -- both creatively and academically -- from working with an experienced artist in invaluable."

For more information on the program, visit http://www.artonthesquare.com.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

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