PERU – The state’s Percent for Art program will show itself in a big way at the newly constructed Dirigo Elementary School when four art projects are created and put on permanent display at the new $14 million school during the next few months.

Each art work, from silvery sculpture to 2D acrylics and mixed media wood relief, will reflect aspects of the communities served by the new school, officials said.

SAD 21 includes the towns of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru.

“Everything was really good stuff,” said Superintendent Tom Ward.

A committee charged with making the decision about which pieces to commission chose from the works of 20 Maine artists. They then narrowed the field to five finalists, said Principal Kathy Richard.

Finalists researched the towns to learn their character.

The district had originally thought the $50,000 set aside by the state for purchasing art would buy only three pieces. But when the bids came back, officials learned that they could afford four.

Richard said media submitted for consideration included works made from the region’s stones, stained glass and banners depicting scenes from the region, to the more traditional media of acrylics, oils and metals.

A committee comprised of Kerstin Gilg, public art associate from the Maine Arts Commission, DES art teacher Karen Gilman, the school architect’s Suzanne Morin, as well as Ward, Richard and Maine artist Jeanne Bruce, worked on the selection process for more than a year.

“We relied on our art teacher to confirm what she felt the kids would relate to,” said Ward. “We all agreed on what we wanted.”

The works of art selected are:

• “A Day Out,” a mixed media 4- by 8-foot wood relief depicting a father and his child canoeing down the Androscoggin River with inland gulls, a turtle, moose, and fish shown within the main art piece or beneath it. A mill is shown in the background. The artist is Mike Stiler of Monhegan Island. The piece will be displayed in the school lobby alcove.

• “Sway,” an acrylic and oil semi-abstract depiction of children enjoying a county fair swing ride created in shades of gray and black. It will cover a 12- by 15-foot wall and part of an adjacent wall leading down a stairway. It will be created by Winthrop artist Peter Precourt.

• A stylized four-panel depiction of connected roadways in the district’s four member towns by Whitefield artist Natasha Mayers. It will be hung in the cafeteria. Each panel will be 3- by 4-feet to create a 20-foot connected mural.

• Three stainless steel sculptures, each measuring 5- by 4-by 3-feet, symbolizing the land, river and sky, created by Thomaston artist William Barriss Martin. The three pieces will be suspended from the library’s cathedral ceiling. Ward said Martin created sculptures for the Percent for Art program when he was principal of Marshwood High School.

The artists are expected to work on their creations during Christmas vacation and again during the April vacation.

Ward said when the four art pieces are completed, he will schedule a SAD 21 school board meeting at Dirigo Elementary School.

Besides adding color, ambiance and a connection to the area where pupils live, displaying art in the school helps develop both sides of the brain, and can be used as a teaching tool, said Ward and Richard.


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