New Tile Mosaic Adorns Entrance to Art Department

IMS Students Create Clay Tile Mosaic Artwork

Be prepared for a Surprise at Ingomar Middle School!

Plan a visit to Ingomar Middle School this fall. You won’t be disappointed! The school has always been a gem tucked into the neighborhoods of Ingomar, but now it sports a new, permanent work of art! The art is a clay tile mosaic created by the hands of 637 energetic middle school students. Every student in the school has created a tile that has texture, relief and depicts a unique aspect of our community and the interests of the young artist. The tiles are various shapes and sizes and every single tile is different!
Ingomar Middle School
Ingomar Middle School

As if that isn’t impressive enough, consider that every tile was designed to fit in a particular location on the wall! The entire project began with the vision of Ingomar art teachers, Mrs. Kathy Slowik and Mrs. Marlene Paulick. They wanted to define the alcove that leads to the art rooms with a statement that would reflect the student population, inspire and stimulate creative thinking. Their vision was to cover the wall with a permanent display created by students. Clay sculpture is already part of the North Allegheny School District middle school curriculum, and this project was an opportunity to help students see that idea formation, goal-setting, planning, and risk-taking carry an idea through to completion in an impressive fashion.

Ingomar Middle School
Ingomar Middle School
Early in the planning stages, Mrs. Slowik and Mrs. Paulick spent many hours after the school day ended to calculate square footage and make patterns for each section of the wall. They mapped out over six hundred shapes. Next, they drew a sketch of the wall and assigned letters to each section. Their design included specific locations for all 637 tiles of various sizes. It was a mathematical challenge, and the art teachers went from calculation to design to blueprint to come up with a plan before cutting tiles and setting students to work.

Ingomar Middle School
Ingomar Middle School
Once the planning was complete, the art teachers were ready to get students involved. Throughout the 2011-2012 school year, every child learned about the project during art class, and created two to three sketches to brainstorm ideas. Students were instructed to show personal expression when choosing the inspiration for their tiles. Students were thoughtful in the selection of their subjects. Subjects included books on Anne Frank and the Civil War, academic subjects, and artists like da Vinci and Matisse. There was even an artist from Pittsburgh, Burton Morris. Some students chose to portray their cultures with flags of Italy and Australia. Other students illustrated their aspirations and favorite activities like playing the piano, playing water polo, dancing, twirling a baton, and playing soccer. Some students portrayed iconic scenes in Pittsburgh like the Mellon Area and the Pittsburgh Skyline. The list is endless, so plan to spend time when you visit. You’ll need the time to appreciate the creativity and diversity of our students!

Ingomar Middle School
Ingomar Middle School
After the student selected a final sketch, they were assigned a tile and a specific location for their tile in the display. They designed and created tiles that were unique in their design and crafted using the elements of art that they had studied. After every tile was designed and created, Mrs. Slowik and Mrs. Paulick fired each tile in a kiln. The temperature of the firing affects the color of the tile, and even this step took trial and error. They wanted a terra cotta color and the tile had to be the right color and strengthen the tile at the same time. It was another challenge, because student tiles couldn’t be replaced. They had to “get it right” on the first firing!

Ingomar Middle School
Ingomar Middle School

Following the firing, the art teachers were faced with the overwhelming task of staining the tiles. Students could not stain their own tiles as they had already moved onto another class. Mrs. Slowik and Mrs. Paulick turned to Ingomar parent volunteers to help with this task. Volunteers came to school in groups to stain every tile with iron oxide stain. The iron oxide stain was used to provide dark areas to enhance the 3-dimensional bas relief quality of each tile. Mrs. Slowik and Mrs. Paulick tested over six ratios before making the final selection. The stain was painted on and then wiped off by volunteers to shade the recessed areas of the three dimensional tiles. It was time consuming and painstaking to stain the fragile tiles in every recess of the three dimensional tiles. The volunteers were up to the task, working all year long and into the summer months. Finally, the project was ready for the next stage, the layout.

Ingomar Middle School
Ingomar Middle School

Where do you layout 640 tiles in a safe place to make sure that the plan will work? When Mrs. Slowik and Mrs. Paulick approached Mrs. Heidi Stark, the Principal, it presented a conundrum. Every classroom is used every period of every day. There just isn’t an empty space in the school. Fortunately, Mrs. Stark worked with Dave Eckert, the lead custodian to clear a space in the school’s basement. Mrs. Slowik and Mrs. Paulick again called upon volunteers to move the tiles and place each tile on the basement floor in their designated location in the layout. Volunteers again spent days working in the basement coating every tile with 2 coats of sealant to ensure that the finish would protect them for years to come. By this time school was out, but the art teachers and their volunteers were still working to bring the vision to completion.

Ingomar Middle School
Ingomar Middle School

In order to install the tiles, they enlisted the skill of Jeff Wienand, North Allegheny School District graduate and independent contractor. Mr. Wienand volunteered his time to install the mosaic. Mrs. Slowik, Mrs. Paulick and the army of parent and student volunteers brought the tiles from the basement to the 2nd floor in careful arrangements to ensure that the exact location of each tile would be preserved. Mr. Wienand installed the tiles under the close supervision of Kathy and Marlene. It was a great combination of his skill and their artistic talent. As a final touch, Ingomar Middle School custodians painted the walls adjacent to the mural a turquoise color to set off the tiles, enhance their beauty, and provide a warm welcome to the art suite. The result is amazing! It’s undeniable that the clay tile mosaic accomplished their purpose. It defines the art alcove with a statement that is certain to inspire and stimulate a young person’s creative thinking. This artwork reflects the creativity and diversity of the students who attend Ingomar Middle School. It’s also a great example to students that any vision can become reality through the effort and dedication of goal-setting, planning, and risk-taking. This vision became an impressive reality that defines the importance of art in the development of a young person’s education.

Plan a visit to Ingomar and experience this work of art for yourself! Expect to walk away inspired and captivated by this collective work of art!
Ingomar Middle School


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