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WEST WINDSOR-PLAINSBORO: Lost something at school? It could be on the mural

By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
WEST WINDSOR — Looking for that necklace you lost? How about that running shoe?
Go to the lobby at the Grover Middle School, and you just might find it on the mural hanging on the wall.
The mural is the creation of 80 students in Amy Pico and Diane Lufrano’s eighth-grade art classes at the middle school. It combines sculpture and painting, the two art teachers said.
The project was inspired by the work of artist Robert Rauschenberg, who used “found objects” in his artwork. Ms. Pico and Ms. Lufrano viewed an exhibit of Mr. Rauschenberg’s work, and became excited at the prospect of bringing the concept back to their students.
“He was innovative. He was not afraid to put a Bald eagle on a canvas. He was trying to make a statement,” Ms. Lufrano said of Mr. Rauschenberg, who died in 2008.
Back at the middle school, Ms. Pico and Ms. Lufrano said that in addition to teaching the students the skills they need to paint and draw, they also try to include art history in their lesson plans. The students had not been exposed to more modern art — art for art’s sake — and that was the point of creating a collage, the teachers said.
“We were excited. We thought we could use a lot of things here — things in the lost-and-found baskets. We thought it was a really great idea — it was ‘lost in a basket and found in an artwork.’ You can create something beautiful with things from the lost-and-found, and put (the art project) in the lobby,” Ms. Lufrano said.
A check of the lost-and-found boxes at school turned up an assortment of objects — sneakers, a pencil case, a cell phone, a lunch bag, a hoodie sweatshirt, a notebook, a wristwatch and a soda can. There was a Teddy bear, a calculator and clothing.
“The students kept talking about the lost-and-found boxes. They were surprised that people lost things, but did not claim them,” Ms. Lufrano said of the eighth-graders.
Some of the students were worried that if some of their belongings turned up in the lost-and-found basket, it would be used in the collage, she said. In fact, one student found her eyeglasses case that she had misplaced.
The students, meanwhile, were excited. They were laughing. Over time, they “got into” the project and enjoyed it, Ms. Lufrano said. It was a way to bring about a conversation about art, she said, adding that she had never undertaken a project such as this one with the students.
“There were a lot of different minds at work. It was free and open. They didn’t know much about modern art,” she said.
The students learned about the elements of design, Ms. Lufrano said. She and Ms. Pico talked to the students about size and shape, and how to use formal elements in a project. For example, you can’t use three cell phones in a row.
“You have to scatter them by shape and surface. You can put a fuzzy sweater next to smooth gym shorts, for contrast (in texture). It’s not throwing a pile of things together. If something sticks up, the next thing to it should be lower. There are a lot of things to think about in sculpture,” Ms. Lufrano said.
Ms. Pico and Ms. Lufrano said the 80 students worked well together as a team, and learned how to be effective team members. They are extremely talented students, the art teachers said.
“It brought out the creativity in the students. It gave them something to think about. They left happy,” Ms. Lufrano said. 

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