September 23, 1998 — Source: Naperville Sun, The (IL) — Author: Jane Lelugas
If a picture paints a thousand words, imagine the story that can be told through a ceramic community quilt created by local art students.
In the spring, life through the eyes of Naperville teens will be transformed on an outside wall of the Hoogendoorn building on Jefferson Avenue, part of the city's growing collection of public art known as the Century Walk. The 6-by-6-foot patchwork will be the handiwork of about 270 District 203 eighth-graders and high school students.
Inspiration came in the form of Faith Ringgold, an internationally renowned artist best known for her painted story quilts.
"We wanted to tie many unrelated pieces together, and that's what a quilt does," said Kennedy art teacher Stacy Slack, who arranged for students to meet Ringgold in person Tuesday during a morning workshop at Naperville Central.
The collaborative project involves one eighth-grade art class from each of the district's junior highs and the Project Idea Plus gifted classes at Kennedy Junior High and two ceramics classes from Naperville Central High School.
Students from Naperville North High School may be asked to complete the final firing, in which the ceramic pieces are put in a kiln heated to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, before the quilt is ready to be assembled and hung outside Anderson's Bookshop.
Designs were due Friday for the 8-inch tiles, made by the junior high artists, that will frame the center of the quilt and the four larger panels, measuring 40 by 48 inches, to be completed by the high school students.
Diversity is the theme for the 55 students in Kennedy's Project Idea Plus classes.
Other eighth-grade art students are illustrating matters important to teens today -- from shopping, music and sports to family, religion and world peace -- on their individual tiles.
Before choosing a theme, students discussed ideas, learned about public art and its purposes, and viewed videos featuring Ringgold.
"We wanted the students to see that it's not just making something and sticking it on a wall," Slack said.
"Each tile is one little piece that becomes part of something greater -- and that's what the students are.
Each one makes a difference, and we want them to know that about themselves."
Naperville Central art teacher Grace Frejlach-Grubb said her students were in the process of converting ideas into unifying themes, with one ceramics class focussing on the past and future and the other on the present.
Her students have taken field trips to view public artwork around the Chicago area and have worked three to four days a week with artist-in-residence Corinne Peterson, an area sculptor, potter and muralist who operates out of Lill Street Studios in Chicago.
Peterson also addressed the students during Tuesday's workshop.
"I'm enormously excited about the project.
It's been such a wonderful opportunity for artistic growth.
It shows students how art is done in the real world," Frejlach-Grubb said.
"There are so many arts-related careers. When we hear the word artist, we think of a starving artist in raggedy clothes.
But there are so many things in our lives that are designed visually."
The legwork for the community quilt project began three years ago.
That's when Slack, District 203 art coordinator and former Century Walk board member, talked with other district staff members about the opportunity to include students in a lasting piece of community art.
"What a wonderful thing to have the children involved," said Slack, explaining how the Century Walk commissioned artists to create work depicting 20th-century Naperville.
Then came the paperwork, as Slack applied for and received grants from Marshall Fields Foundation, the Bravo Channel and Jones Intercable, Century Walk and the Naperville Education Foundation.
The students' work will be completed by the end of the fall trimester, according to Slack.
She said a professional will be hired to connect the pieces and display the final product.
She expects many students will be allowed to view this complicated part of the process.
"Instead of just making a clay pot, they're making something they can give back to the community," Slack said.
"I like that aspect, that they can come back with their children and grandchildren and say, `I did that.'"
Naperville Central students Charlie Macko and Teena Bologna offer suggestions for a center panel of the community ceramic quilt, a joint project between District 203 eighth-grade and high school art students.