Students school Lenoir city leaders on art project

Mar. 18, 2014 @ 09:39 AM

Hunched over a ceramic tile, 9-year-old Ashley Moreira watched with apparent concern Monday as Lenoir Mayor Joe Gibbons dipped his brush into light blue paint, then swept it across the tile.

“You’ve got to make it perfect,” Ashley told him.

Gibbons and Councilmen T.J. Rohr and Ben Willis joined West Lenoir Elementary School students to paint tiles for the Caldwell Community Gardens wall mural. Each sat down with one or more students to create his piece of artwork.

Taking orders from the girl, Gibbons created a sweeping rainbow of his favorite colors, then slid the tile over to the Eagle Council member, who wants to be a clothing designer, singer, dancer and the president when she grows up. With a firm stroke, Ashley glanced back and forth between the tile and Gibbons’ nametag as she signed his tile “JOSEPH GIBBONS” in one stripe and then “THE MAYOR!” underneath in another. She grinned with pride at her perfect spelling and straight lines.

Gibbons then finished his tile with Appalachian State University symbols of a football and a goal post. However, he realized he painted an old-fashioned H-shaped goal post instead of the T shape seen in end zones today.

“Gosh, I’m an idiot,” he said, laughing.

But Ashley shook her head and said, “If you’re the mayor, I’m pretty sure you’re not.”

Ashley's own tile had pink, purple, blue and green polka dots.

Second-grader Franklin Salazar had to paint a new tile because his broke. He, however, was not as enthusiastic about the project as Ashley; he would rather have been in P.E. class playing soccer.

“I’m good at it,” Salazar said. “I wish I was a coach.”

Melissa Jaroszewski, art teacher at West Lenoir Elementary, and Dabney Smith, art teacher at Davenport A+ School, secured an Educational Foundation grant to beautify the wall in Caldwell Community Gardens and Unity Park.

The teachers decided to focus on community and created a circle design. The individual tiles, supplied by Warren Croon of Precision Tile Corp., have arches spreading from the bottom corner to the center like a sideways rainbow. When put together with three additional tiles, the arches connect together as a circle. The circle represents a “community coming together,” Jaroszewski said.

During the week, town officials are stopping by to create their tiles. On March 29, their tiles will be installed alongside those of all the elementary school kids’ on the mural wall in the gardens. On April 8, from 3:30 to 6 p.m. families are invited to come out and paint their own tiles to add to the wall.

Currently, the teachers have collected 800 tiles and hope to see more from families at the April 8 event, Jaroszewski said. They have also offered tiles to downtown Lenoir businesses.

After putting the finishing touches on his tile, Gibbons was presented with several pieces of student artwork for his office.

“That was fun,” Gibbons said. “And, I got pretty pictures. These are going up on my office this afternoon.”