North Summit Elementary unveils two tile murals
Ryan Summerlin January 31, 2014
To celebrate its "100 Years of Brave Spirit," North Summit Elementary School has installed two ceramic-tile art murals in its halls.
The works include a total of 280 tiles — one with 180 and the other with 100 — that were drawn and painted by the school’s 89 fourth graders. The tiles were then fired by Salt Lake artist Paul Heath, who held workshops with the students throughout the process.
The project was made possible through the Artist-in-Residence program funded in part by the Utah Division of Arts and Museums and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Additional financial support was donated by the local PTA, state PTA and Tanger Outlet Stores.
"The inspiration for the artwork comes from the past 100 years," said Lola Beatlebrox, Summit County Artscape chair. "We wanted the kids to look into the history of Summit County for these images."
The students used texts such as "Your History Your County," written by Beatlebrox and published by the Summit County Historical Society, which features images of Paleo-Indian rock art images.
Heath taught line, shape and gesture drawing to the students who then transferred their interpretations of images onto three four-inch by four-inch tiles.
Out of those three, one or more was selected for the murals, and additional tiles were created to fill in the gaps, Heath said.
"This is a great way to have hands on, pioneer, Native American history lessons in the art," he said during an interview with The Park Record. "This is the first time that kids have done this with me. Usually, I just do the art myself or with my wife. So it’s neat to see kids translating the history, because it makes the project their own."
One of the fourth graders, Malachi Gren, said he was surprised at how the tiles turned out.
"There were different colors and sometimes the colors don’t look like the ones that I wanted, but once the tiles were glazed the real color came out," he said.
Heath, an artist-in-residence with the Utah Arts Council, holds a degree in fine arts from the University of Utah, and is currently the Beverly Taylor Sorenson art education specialist at Bennion Elementary School in Salt Lake City.
"This is nice because of the integration of history, which is what the Beverly Taylor Sorenson program strives for," he said.
The artist was introduced by tile art while doing a residency at Ensign Elementary in Salt Lake City.
"My son was a student at that time and I just fell in love with it," Heath said. "So I turned it around and used it for a couple of public art projects."
Some of Heath’s installations include the Murray Library Centennial Art project and the "Flying Objects" installations in downtown Salt Lake.
"I’ve also done glazed-art tile murals and projects for the Draper Library that highlighted Draper history and the Magna Senior Center that featured images from Magna’s history," he said. "The permanence of it is really what’s attractive to me. The colors never fade. It’s easy to clean."
Heath worked with John Riddle to set the tiles.
"John is an expert tile setter who works in the Salt Lake City School District," Heath said.
North Summit Elementary principal Lori O’Connor said the Artist-in-Resident program helps round out students’ education.
"I have a strong commitment to educating the whole child," O’Connor said. "We have so much pressure on us to meet the academic demands, but I always want to make sure that we are bringing arts to children, because for many of them, the arts is at the very heart of who they are and who they will become as adults."
O’Connor has worked with Beatlebrox on a handful of different art projects in the past couple of years, including some humanities council grants that will bring more art to the school.
"The vision keeps getting bigger and bigger to help the students develop the artists inside of themselves," O’Connor said.