Students in the Portsmouth City School District are being presented with the unique opportunity to create a new sculpture garden on campus. The Human Rights Garden will be a permanent outdoor sculpture and plant garden based upon the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, slotted for completion in May of 2017.
The garden will be located between the baseball and football field, on top of a small slope. Providing some privacy, but also allowing visitors a view of the athletic centers.
“We were selected by the Ohio Arts Council for a ‘Teach Arts Ohio,’ initiative,” explained art teacher April Deacon. “It’s a pilot project, when we’re selected, I already had the idea to create a sculpture garden, we just never had the funds to do it.”
The project is unique because it will be created by and for the students. Throughout the school year, students will participate in a variety of hands-on learning projects. The project will also bring together many facets of the student body, with over 300 students taking part. Science, Social Studies, Gifted, Art, Building Maintenance, and Wood-shop classes, will join forces in conjunction with other students to work together toward the shared goal of creating the space.
Activities will begin with an archaeological dig on the site, on September 21.
“We’re bringing in some staff from the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. They’ll be working with our eighth grade social students to sift through the soil in search of Native American artifacts. That’s how we’re going to start the site,” said Deacon.
The students will then take a field trip to the Southern Ohio Museum to view the Art of the Ancients exhibit. There, they will further explore objects once used by the Adena and Hopewell people who prospered in the region years ago.
The Sculpture Garden focuses on the theme of Human Rights, so throughout the year, students will examine the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Students will be asked to consider implications of these rights on a local, national and global scale. The seventh grade gifted students and high school Art I students will work with visiting artist Kevin Lyles to create paper castings based upon the rights they’ve studied.
The high school Three-Dimensional Art students will collaborate with Lyles to design three large-scale bronze, aluminum and stone sculptures also based upon the theme of Human Rights. The students will also be hosted at Rio Grande to observe their work come to life in bronze through the process of lost-wax casting.
The sculptures will also utilize historic architectural elements salvaged from Portsmouth’s industrial and educational buildings.
“The students are already really excited,” explained Deacon. “I’m walking them through all of the design steps, we did the math to figure out what the area of the garden was going to be, and the area where the plants are going to be so that we could tell our designers. I think they’re realizing all the time and effort that goes into a real-life project.”
The Three-Dimensional Art students will also work alongside another visiting Welsh artist, Bryan Thomas. Thomas will help the students create paving stones for the garden, thanks to the University of Rio Grande and funds from the IMAGINEARTS Endowment.
The Building and Maintenance students will also be working at this time to design and build benches for the space.
After this phase of the project is finished, educators and designers from the Franklin Park Conservatory will become visiting teachers in the district. The fifth grade science students will work with these educators to learn about plants and ecosystems.During this time, the Three-Dimensional Art students will bring the garden to life by selecting plants with the help of Franklin Park Horticulture Designer, Garet Martin.
“I think it’s great, I think April is constantly looking for ways to provide our students with opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise get,” explained superintendent, Scott Dutey. “She constantly surprises us every year with something. She’s done lots of projects that have involved the community and our students over the last several years, this is just another one of those. Although, I think this has exceeded everything she’s attempted and accomplished in the past.”
The project is slotted to be completed by the end of the school year, in May of 2017. The garden produced will be just the first part of a multi-phase learning series that will continue to grow throughout the years and impact elementary, junior high and high school learners. In the coming years, the school hopes to add an outdoor physical fitness area, a vegetable garden, gazebos and an outdoor exhibition space for art displays.
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-9891-6977, Facebook “Ciara Conley - Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara.