Driving around downtown Central Point, you may notice a series of 2-by-3-foot mosaics have appeared on a number of walls. Mounted in groups of three to eight panels, the installations were created by art students at Crater High School as part of a new beautification project designed to both enhance the city and involve local teens in their community.
The mosaics are collages of tile, ceramic and mirror pieces set in concrete and grouted. The concept started with Debbie Saxbury, head of the Central Point Beautification and Revitalization Committee.
The original idea was to mount the panels on trash cans around town, but when the panels were finished, it was decided they needed more prominent display.
"I got 100-percent positive feedback from the building owners, saying yes, they wanted the mosaics on their buildings," says Saxbury. "That's never happened before."
The tiles used in the mosaics were all donated, some by businesses, some brought in by community members who had three or four tiles left over from home projects. Additional ceramic inserts were fabricated by the students.
"The only thing we had to pay for was the sign guy to install them," says Saxbury.
A total of 137 students, studying under Crater High art teachers Clare Vanderswan, Katie Barber and Ron Kraft, participated in the project. Working in small committees, the students produced 62 panels.
"The kids had a list of approved ideas — Central Point themes and nature," says Vanderswan. "We made them do sketches, a scale drawing. Then they had to lay all the tiles out on top of the drawing, finding the tiles that worked, picking a palette."
"It was probably the first project where everybody in class participated," says 18-year-old Caleb Neuenschwander. "Everyone got really excited about it. This project allowed a lot of creativity. It was a nice change."
"It was fun but kind of difficult," says Brittney Wilson, 17. "It took my group three or four weeks. We learned how to use different art materials and about teamwork. How not to get mad at one another if they didn't do it how you wanted it to be done."
"I think it kind of inspires the community to know that the kids at Crater have potential," adds Allie Feeley, 17. "It really brought out our creativity."
Katie Barber wanted her groups to learn to go through the design process the way real artists would, learning about the community-approval process, as well as going through the construction, cleaning and sealing processes.
"They were really thrilled when they (the mosaics) went up this fall," says Barber. "This was an opportunity for them to make really meaningful community art. When kids invest themselves in their community, they tend to take care of it; they feel more like this is their home."
Most of the kids said they felt the project was fun and that they would love to try it again, though they admit it was a real challenge.
"It's been a real rewarding program," says Saxbury. "The kids were so excited to see something they produced that everyone can see every day and that will probably still be here in 20 or 30 years when they come back for reunions. Our main goal was to get the kids involved."
"We plan on doing one project every year," adds Saxbury. The middle-school students also will be included in the next project. "I'm personally just so proud of the kids. It's a win-win for everyone, the kids, the schools, the community, our committee."