Mural kindles pupils' creative spirit

Middle school artists create tiles to line wall at Pratt Street Pavilion

March 06, 2002|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Loving Baltimore, the name of the ceramic tile mural unveiled yesterday at the Inner Harbor's Pratt Street Pavilion, is a show of what a few of the city's middle school art pupils can do.

The public display of the newly fired, glazed and finished clay mural is intended to give both public arts education and passers-by a lift, said Shirley Brown, director of the middle school program for the nonprofit National Museum of Ceramic Art, the project organizer.

Several of the young artists who crafted the mural's 36 panels came to witness the whole artwork for the first time yesterday and could not contain a sense of awe.

"I did that by myself, with no help either," said Jamar Barnes, 14, an eighth-grader at Thurgood Marshall Middle School, pointing to a carved giraffe in a Baltimore Zoo panel.

His friend Donte Becoat, 13, captured in clay the oval Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, despite never seeing the building in real life, he said.

On the historical front, Casie Fowler, 13, an eighth-grader at Hamilton Elementary and Middle School, managed a complex clay depiction of Fort McHenry's cannons, barracks and large flag, the dimensions based on a slide, she said.

Her schoolmate Ugochi Nwaba, 12, captured a literary spirit associated with Baltimore, pointing out that the mysterious face in her panel belonged to poet Edgar Allan Poe. Not far from Poe's panel was a simple rendering of a raven by Joshua Gregorio, 13, of Robert Poole Middle School, who proudly announced yesterday he was accepted to attend Baltimore's School for the Arts next year.

Teachers from nine city middle schools each selected a handful of talented pupils to participate in the city mural project, designed to engage their minds and imagination - along with their hands - at an age that can be awkward, Brown said. The project got under way about two months ago, with various schools assigned different parts of the overall concept.

Meant to expand the pupils' understanding of the city's architecture and history in a "cross-curriculum" challenge, other panels feature sailboats and ships representing Baltimore's maritime glory; City Hall; the Bromo Seltzer tower; the Fells Point city pier; and Mount Vernon's Washington Monument.

City Council President Sheila Dixon appeared yesterday to praise the effort, remarking on the Johns Hopkins Hospital panel in which the hospital is presented as a familiar beacon by Corey Liller of Violetville Elementary and Middle School.

Teachers who worked with the pupils said that being singled out sparked their enthusiasm and piqued the curiosity of their peers.

"Now, they have their names [on a plaque] in a public place, and they own this one tile," said Kathy Alexander, a teacher at Robert Poole Middle School.

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