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Teens wield tools for library mural

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“Help create a teen space mural for the Yellow Springs Public Library. Make new friends! Wear fashionable safety glasses! Learn how to master a jigsaw, cutting intricate shapes out of wood with the blade only inches from your fingers! Amaze your friends! Worry your parents! Be a part of the growing movement to make beautiful, permanent public art for your community.”

This wasn’t the exact wording on the flyer that rallied local teens to collaborate on a wood relief sculpture, but the result is still the same and will be dedicated at a reception at the library on Friday, Aug. 15, 5–7 p.m. Refreshments will be served, and music will be provided by “Second Story” — a local band comprised of Yellow Springs High School students.
From conception to reception, YSHS sophomore Lauren Westendorf was with it all the way.

“The energy was really high-spirited about the project,” said Westendorf, a member of both the library’s Teen Advisory Group (who came up with the initial idea of creating a teen mural) and the Teen Art Group (who carried out the request).

The power tools definitely had a waking-up effect on the group.

“It was kind of daunting at first,” admitted Max Fleishman, YSHS senior, who voiced a common concern among his fellow power-tool users. “I’ve used some saws before, but I’ve never used jigsaws. I think the main thing that worried me was how I would control it. Once I got the hang of it, though, it was just easy sailing!”

Savita Bathija, 13, also enjoyed unleashing her inner power tool pro. “It was so much fun!” she laughed.

Collaborations were not in short supply. In addition to the two TAG teams joining forces, illustrator and art professor Michael Fleishman teamed up with artist-educator Deborah Housh in that most idyllic of community connections.

“Deb lives across the street,” said Fleishman. “We’re neighbors. We’re always talking….We got to talking about what would be a good class for teens and the idea for the mural came up.”

Yellow Springs Arts Council Program Coordinator Housh secured funding this year for the “Art and Service Youth Program” to bring local professional artists together with kids for learning opportunities that culminate in an exhibit or performance. Funding for the mural project came from the Yellow Springs Endowment for Education and the Yellow Springs Library Association. Antioch School allowed the use of its classroom space and yard as a mural work area.

“August 15th is Third Friday Fling,” explained Housh. “The focus of that fling will be on youth art. We’re not only having the reception for the mural, but that’s also the opening reception for the Teen Art Show in YSAC’s new Art Space [located at 108 Dayton Street, second floor]. Come see the mural and hear the band and then come to the Teen Art Show at the gallery, 6 to 9 p.m.”

Fleishman and Housh introduced mural participants to the idea of a bas relief mural and then showed examples they had pulled from the Internet.

“We talked about what a mural is and what’s involved in the production,” said Fleishman. “We settled on this theme of what goes on at a library. Then we talked about how shapes and color can get your message across.”

“The mural was really collaborative of all the artists that worked on it,” said Westendorf. “We each came up with an idea, and we worked off those ideas to create one big idea. We had two days where we were thinking of the idea and sketching. Then we got on Illustrator and made a picture of what we wanted the mural to be.”

The group spent the next two weeks learning how to cut out the necessary shapes using a jigsaw and a band saw. “Then we sanded, primed, and painted, then set everything up the way we wanted,” Westendorf explained. “We had a whole day where we moved things around like half an inch!”

Workshop participants gained more than just technical skills. “It really inspired me to take this project and adapt it to work with students in the college design class I teach,” said Fleishman, associate professor of commercial art at Edison Community College in Piqua.

Westendorf couldn’t be happier with the way the project turned out.

“I think everyone was trying to get their own ideas into the mural but still collaborating with everyone else saying, ‘Oh that’s a great idea — let’s put that in!’ Separately we couldn’t have made the mural as amazing as we did together.”

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