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School's "A-team" transforms the library.

School's "A-team" transforms the library

A SCHOOL MEDIA CENTER'S "environment" is a crucial element in the success of a library media program. A cheerful, inviting facility where students can feel welcome and comfortable draws students in--even the reluctant ones. Once there, the exciting world of books and media can be revealed to them.

But what does a library media specialist do when confronted with a facility that over the years has lost some of its appeal? Geri Thigpen encountered such a challenge at Emerson Junior High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She solved her problem by forming an "A-team" of staff, students and community. Her story provides a good example of what cooperation can accomplish.

Designed by reknowned architect Richard Neutra and located new UCLA, Emerson opened in 1935. The library's chief attraction was a mural, "Canticle of the Sun," designed in 1946 by artist Kay Nielsen (remembered for his marvelous book illustrations as well as his work on the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence from the Disney classic, Fantasia). Highly regarded by art experts, the mural measures 8' (2.4 m) in height and 35' (10.7 m) in length and covers the complete north upper wall of the library. Ms. Thigpen recognized that this mural, combined with Neutra's strong design, provided her with a room full of potential. To realize this potential, she organized her version of the "A-team" -- the "A" stands for Art.

She sought the help of the art department to find ways to cover some of the large areas of empty wall space. Student drawings and paintings were placed in simple, easy-to-change plastic frames and hung above the bookshelves on the west wall. They are changed a number of times during the school year.

The other art project was a bit more complicated. The art production class, after completing its work on the yearbook, planned a relief wall assemblage 4' x 8' (1.2 m x 2.4 m) in size. Scrap wood was gathered from the woodshop and twelve students were each assigned a 16" x 24" (41 cm x 61 cm) section. The design was to have no recognizable images and no large spaces between the pieces of wood.

They practiced arranging the pieces on newsprint, and when satisfied, began to determine which designs seemed to look well in relation to others being done. Line continuity, shape relationships, visual variety and texture were considered. When general agreement was reached, the pieces were stained with wood stain and glued on the rough or reverse side of a 4' x 8' (1.2 m x 2.4 m) masonite panel. This made for good adherence and provided a surface that blended visually with the wood.

Framing of 1" x 2" (2 cm x 5 cm) was glued to the back of the masonite (visible only from the side-edge views) and stained. The whole assemblage was given a final lacquer spray. Right angle metal braces were attached to the wall and then to the frame. Placed adjacent to the large windows of the east wall, the light and shadows play dramatically across the surface of the design.

A movie screen was attached to the center, front wall. When it was not in use, an uninteresting black space was prominent. Ms. Thigpen solved this problem by attaching large wood letters to the area: IITYWYRB. "What do those letters mean?" asks a student. "If I Tell You Will You Read a Book?" answers Ms. Thigpen.

This cooperative effort among students, school staff and the community is a testament to what can be accomplished. In short, the library has become a visually enriched place to be and see. The leader of the "A-team" deserves an "A" from the hundreds of visitors who use the library every week.

PHOTO : Dramatic light and dark plays across the varied sizes and heights of the scrap wood

PHOTO : design.

PHOTO : Students are intensely involved in their art assignment. Their work will become a major

PHOTO : part of the library decor.

PHOTO : Kay Nielsen's 8' x 35' (2.4 m x 10.7 m) mural covers the entire upper north wall and is

PHOTO : considered one of the art treasures of the Los Angeles area.
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Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:student art for the library
Author:Selleck, Jack
Publication:School Arts
Date:Mar 1, 1989
Previous Article:Artists in the schools.
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