Thousands of mosaic tiles tell stories at Hempfield High School Library

Hempfield School District  |  Posted on

The mural adds visual interest on a ramp that connects the upper and lower levels of the high school library.

When the Hempfield High School art department received grant money from the Hempfield Foundation for an artist-in-residence program for the 2017-18 school year, department supervisor Brian Lehman awarded it to the school’s clay classes. The library had requested an art piece to be installed on a ramp that connects the upper and lower parts of the library. Art educator Kelly Gallagher’s idea was to install a mural, and local artist Kevin Lehman was called in to assist. He is a ceramic artist who started the “Creative Factory” in Lancaster and has experience working in schools as an artist-in-residence.

The theme for the mural is famous children’s books and was designed by students in clay two and three level classes during the first semester of the year. Each student submitted design concepts and sketches, then all the students came together to agree on the mural. To create the tiles, students roll out clay and cut the required shapes, cut and numbered each one and fired them in the kiln. Next, they were glazed and fired again before being ready for installation. The permanent installation was completed in the spring.

Ten books are represented in the mural. They range from classics like The Wizard of Oz and Moby Dick, to newer works like A Long Way to Chicago and Hunger Games. Several thousand tiles were made for the project. This mosaic has been a collaborative effort between a local artist, students and the community. Through community events, anyone who wanted to be part of this project was invited to help make or glaze tiles. More than 75 participants responded, ranging from age 5 through high school students and adults. Gallagher is working with her clay students to complete side two of the ramp’s mosaic mural.