Student mural focuses on a beautiful history
Derry artist Mike Gibbons shows some carving techniques to fifth-grader Griffin Buzzell at North Elementary School Tuesday afternoon as part of the Artist In Residency program. Gibbons began working with the school's 80 fifth-graders last week. (April Guilmet/Union Leader Correspondent)
Fifth graders Sean Wilson, Ryan Dooley and Ryan Lowe (left to right) were all smiles as they worked on clay tiles in the North Elementary School art room Tuesday afternoon. The finished tiles will be glazed and fired later this week, with Derry artist Mike Gibbons to install them into a mural in the front foyer in the coming week. (April Guilmet/Union Leader Correspondent)
LONDONDERRY -- The town's colorful history is now being illustrated for future generations via a handcrafted tile mural soon to adorn the school's front foyer.
Artist Mike Gibbons, a member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen and owner of Nutfield Pottery in East Derry, began working with North School's 80 fifth-graders late last week.
Last Thursday, Gibbons went over the basics, with each student getting the chance to try out the pottery wheel. The fun continued on Tuesday, when the children began carving their own designs into the soft clay.
By day's end, 200 tiles were sculpted and ready for Gibbons to take back to his studio for glazing and firing. Next week, he'll return to the school to begin installing the mural.
Each year, the school's fifth-graders complete a legacy project, according to Principal Mary Coltin. When the time came to decide what this year's project would be, Gibbons, who'd worked with other groups at the school previously, immediately came to mind.
“Under his guidance, our students have really expanded their knowledge about pottery,” said Coltin.
North School's Parent-Teacher Association funded the project.
On Tuesday afternoon, the art room was buzzing with activity as the children's creativity started to flow. One by one, the finished tiles were lined up on a large table, each adorned with a familiar image such as the Town Common cannon, the Nutfield acorn, apples, purple lilacs and ladybugs.
Gibbons encouraged the students to think outside the box when it came to evoking their town's heritage, offering tidbits on some lesser-known historical facts.
For instance, many of the students were surprised to hear that Londonderry was once better known for its fine linens than its apple orchards.
“We want to capture the theme of this area. What that theme will be, well, that's up to you,” he told the children.
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