Olivia Wise a 3rd grader help to create this mosaic last year, it on the wall by the school library at the Mason Heights Elementary that will close this summer. Photo taken by Tony Jones Feb. 22, 2012.
Michael D. Clark reports:
One of Mason’s oldest schools will close next school year, but hand-made pieces of art created over the years by thousands of its young students may live on.
Since 2005 large and colorful mosaics have adorned both the interior and exterior of Mason Heights Elementary. Created by second- and third-graders – under the guidance of a local artist – the tile and glass mosaics have become an iconic part of the 800-student school.
In a cost-saving move earlier this month, Mason’s school board voted to merge 45-year-old Mason Heights Elementary with Western Row Elementary and consolidate their students at Western Row and Mason Early Childhood Center. The merger will impact more than 1,600 students and their families in the Warren County school system.
Mason Heights now houses grades 2 and 3.
The more than a dozen intricate art works range from the gigantic – 20 by 8 feet – to poster-sized ones in the school’s lobby, halls and outside walls. Each has a theme, such as biology, diversity, internationalism, science, reading. Many include tiny self-portraits of former grade-school students who precisely used colored tile and glass pieces to create unique works of art.
“When I talk to people and former students, the first thing they ask now is what is going to happen to the mosaics,” says veteran art teacher Kerry Kronenberger, who has coordinated the school’s annual mosaic program since 2005.
“All our students have participated in the past seven years, and it’s meaningful to the public, too,” Kronenberger says. “It’s the students’ legacy here.”
Eric Messer, principal of Mason Heights, echoed the importance of the mosaics. Standing in the school lobby next to the second largest art work, which depicts children saying hello in 22 languages, Messer says “they are neat, and they are different.
“There has been a lot of hard work, pride and dedication put into these over the years. It helps the kids to feel like it’s their school, and it’s a connection for them. They come in with their parents and point to that and say ‘I did that,’ ” he said.
Tracey Carson, spokeswoman for the schools, says district officials understand the emotional and historical importance of the mosaics.
“Right now, we are talking with a contractor, as well as the original artist, to explore the process for preserving and moving the murals,” says Carson.
“Our hope would be that some of the murals could be moved to Western Row, some to the Mason Early Childhood Center and a few could even end up at the district’s Central Office,” she says.
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