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Students learn resilience by piecing together art

Mosaic project builds classroom relationships

Kelloggsville — In Room 1505 at Kelloggsville High School, from the hallway on a late-September morning, one can hear the Bruno Mars station on Pandora and the steady sound of breaking glass. 

Wait, what?

Although glass shattering would normally be a cause for concern, inside 1505 teacher Krista Pomorski is unfazed. 

She’s teaching Art Two and Studio Art, and the current project is creating a mosaic from carefully broken pieces of glass. On this day, several students are to the point in the project where they’re ready to place glass on a board on which they have made an outline, a road map for the work to come. 

And so the soundtrack of broken glass provides a percussion-like complement to the smooth croonings of Bruno, and it’s music to the ears of Pomorski.

But, she is quick to add, safety always comes first. 

Indeed, long before the glass-breaking began, she had introduced the project to her students with a PowerPoint presentation. Together the class looked at some of the history of ancient mosaic art and at some of the mosaic artists of today. Students then created rough drafts in their sketchbooks and discussed safety at length before hammering out the shards to make their creations.

Krystal Leon, shown here with her hammer, glass and mosaic project, says art makes the world better

A Lakers Mosaic

For junior Braden Russell, art class was a good option for someone who had an extra spot for a class and likes art. But, he admitted, he knew nothing about mosaics before the semester began.

“I saw mosaic art before,” he said, “but never knew what it was called.”

Braden decided to make a mosaic based on his favorite NBA team, the Los Angeles Lakers — even before they won the 2020 NBA championship — because “I wanted something that I can keep and like for a while.”

He added with a smile: “What has been fun is breaking the glass and the good part is putting it together.”

Across a socially distanced room, Aliyah Taylor and Krystal Leon were also hard at work on their mosaics.

Krystal, a senior, said she took Art 1 as a junior and loved the class, so signing up for Art 2 was an easy decision.

“I love art in general,” she added. “Art makes everything special and beautiful, and it makes us a better world.”

The mosaic project, she said, has been both fun and challenging.

“The planning process was fun, and then the little pieces are always the hardest. Mosaics are like puzzles. It won’t fit in if it’s not the right one. Art is passion, love, dedication and despair. And then you look at your artwork and realize that not even money could ever replace it.”

Art teacher Krista Pomorski offers advice to Krystal Leon on her project

Art Becomes a Source of Peace

For Aliyah, a junior, art class has become a source of peace in the midst of COVID-19.

“What I like about art in general is that you are allowed to mess up, and you can express yourself without using words,” she said.

Though she admitted she really did not know much about mosaics before taking the class, it wasn’t a problem.

“I love new learning experiences, and the best part of working on my mosaic is that every day is different. You have to find the puzzle pieces.”

Pomorski, a 2006 Kelloggsville graduate who went on to earn a degree from Kendall College of Art and Design, said that because of COVID, she is teaching art this semester in two-hour blocks every other day. That scheduling has proved to be a positive for art classes, including having fewer in-person students this fall as Kelloggsville offered both in-classroom and virtual instruction, with about 57 percent choosing in-person.

“The semester is going very well,” she said. “I love having eight students to pour into for two hours every other day. We have been enjoying great conversations in class so far together, and I would say that this specific group of students is thriving in the environment we have created. While it is still early fall, I am very proud of them.”

Small pieces make a big impact for Aliyah Taylor as she works on a mosaic project

Building Classroom Relationships

Pomorski added that over the summer, while she and other faculty waited for answers about how they would be teaching in the fall, she was inspired to share with her students ways to stand up in the face of adversity — and how to look for positive opportunities in the midst of struggle.

“Obviously 2020 has been a difficult year for many individuals,” she said, calling her small class a “strange and unique opportunity” for instruction. “I wanted to lead my students to understand that there might not be another school year like the current one we are living in, but while we are here, let’s enjoy our environment, our extra time and space to create, and the opportunity to build our working classroom relationships together.” 

For her, the mosaic projects are a wonderful example of that emphasis.

“One of the biggest execution steps in creating a mosaic is finding a way to make each piece fit while still being able to deliver the subject matter visually,” she said. “Spring semester took our school year and shattered the whole. All schools, teachers and students are now taking those pieces and gluing them back together. 

“Will they all fit the exact same as they once did only a short time ago? No. But with creative problem-solving, we can continue to make something beautiful. Art is a demonstration of our resilience.”

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Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan covers East Grand Rapids and Kelloggsville and is the lead reporter for Grand Rapids. He hails from Exeter, Ontario (but has called Grand Rapids home since 1985) and is the son of a longtime public school teacher who taught both English and machine shop. Phil took both classes at South Huron District High School, but English stuck, and at Calvin College, where he met his wife, Sue, he majored in English and minored in journalism. His background includes both journalism and public relations, including teaching an advertising and PR course at the college level for almost a decade. In the summer of 2019, he began his own writing and communications business, de Haan Communications. In his spare time, Phil plays pick-up hockey and pickleball and tries to keep tabs on his two adult children. Read Phil's full bio


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