Student artists unveil sculpture at Jackson Liberty High School


JACKSON – More than 90 students helped to design and sculpt a new piece of art that stands in an outdoor courtyard at Jackson Liberty High School.

The student artists, the school’s resident artist and the school’s art educators who worked on the sculpture unveiled their creation during a special presentation on June 9.

The work is the culmination of a year-long Artist in Residency program that was made possible through a grant valued at more than $11,000, according to Jackson School District administrators.

Resident artist Gail Scuderi and art teachers Megan Bender, Jessee Bassel and Ashley Forsyth worked with students to design and execute three permanent sculptures which are collaborative vertical garden poles made from ceramic clay and glass mosaic tiles.

One pole consists of organic clay forms, focusing on the theme of nature with a mosaic base. A second pole consists of geometric forms, focusing on the theme of school pride with a mosaic base. The third pole is a mosaic pole that incorporates both themes by using handmade ceramic tiles and mosaic glass tiles.

“Last year, I applied for a grant through the Artist in Education residency program, which places a teaching artist in school with my students for 20 days throughout the year,” Bender said.

“We received the grant and Gail Scuderi, who is a mosaic artist and a ceramic artist, came in and worked with our students,” she said

Students in all four grade levels at Jackson Liberty High School were involved in the project.

“We knew we wanted to create a permanent installation in the courtyard, which was barren, with the hope of transforming the space into a future sculpture garden,” Bender said.

“Three classes worked on it, almost 100 students in total. It was a very collaborative process.

“One pole is nature themed and the students created coiled pieces that go up vertically.

“Another pole is school spirit themed and for the final mosaic pole we gave the kids free rein to do what they liked,” she said, explaining that the students worked with mosaic and glass tiles, and ceramics.

“The students were really 100% the creators and it is just really exciting to see it all come together,” Bender said.

“When I found out I got the grant and then it was in the middle of the pandemic, it was like, how is this ever going to possibly happen? We started in February and we only had half the students in school on a a hybrid schedule.

“It was really challenging working with clay, which is a material that dries out. We also had more than 50% of my students at home on any given day.

“So having to pack up the supplies and the things they would need so they could work at home was challenging, but the kids just continued to surprise me,” Bender said, adding that she has received the same grant for the 2021-22 school year.

Jackson Board of Education President Tara Rivera attended the ceremony during which the sculptures were presented to the school community.

“I am so impressed with our students’ abilities and so proud their work will be on display for generations to come. Congratulations to all of our students and to the staff who worked so hard to secure the grant that made it all possible,” Rivera said.