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Berkley students to create tiles for Heidelberg Project

January 8, 2014

» click to enlarge «
JoJuan Hogue, a senior at Tri-County Educational Center, works on glazing a ceramic tile as part of the school’s fundraiser to support the Heidelberg Project.
Adelaide Fabiilli and Julia Tomaro, art teachers with the Berkley School District, created the mold to make ceramic tiles with the image of the Heidelberg Project’s “Dotty-Wotty House” on them.

BERKLEY — The Heidelberg Project in Detroit has gained national recognition in past years for the houses along Heidelberg Street and nearby blocks that have been transformed into works of art on the outside.

A series of recent suspected arson fires, however, have left many of the houses burned to the ground. The first fire was in May and the last in the string of incidents took place in early December.

Adelaide Fabiilli, who teaches art at the Tri-County Educational Center in the Berkley School District, attended a conference in June that included a trip to check out the Heidelberg Project.

Instantly, Fabiilli said she had the urge to help her students get involved in the project. And when the fires became more prominent, she decided to use it as a way to help the Heidelberg Project raise some money.

Fabiilli’s class, along with a class taught by Julia Tomaro at Anderson Middle School, will make ceramic tiles with the image of the original “Dotty-Wotty House” on them so that they can be sold at the Heidelberg Project Gift House.

“Tri-County is an alternative education building, and we have a lot of students from the Detroit area,” Fabiilli said. “A lot of universities and different groups do installation pieces with the project, so we asked to do ceramic tiles, and they said to go ahead and do it.”

Fabiilli and Tomaro created a mold for the tiles, and the students will create the ceramic tiles out of the mold and then glaze them with various colorful dots.

Right now, Fabiilli said they are working on creating 30 prototype tiles to see how they turn out. Some students already have begun working on firing and glazing the tiles.

The teachers hope that helping the Heidelberg Project will show students there are bright spots in all of the negative stories they hear in Detroit.

“A lot of the students don’t think they can do certain things, and I want to pull them out of that and show them they can,” Fabiilli said. “I want to go into more depth with footage from Detroit and maybe take them down to the project. They are used to hearing so many bad things happening, and I think it is a truly meaningful experience to have something they can connect with and talk about.”

For Tomaro, helping the Heidelberg Project not only allows the students to get the art aspect of making the tiles, but it also shows them the benefit of helping out in their communities.

“I like the community service aspect of it, and I think as we are teaching students, we need to let them know most of their adult life they will be asked to do community service, as well,” she said. “The earlier they get involved and get to feel that feeling you get after you have helped out, it will actually show them they want to do that as adults. They can use their skills doing something they enjoy and further that to helping others.”

Tomaro said the ceramic tiles will be a great project for her students, but she feels the project may benefit Fabiilli’s students even more.

“I think this is a great idea for her and her group of kids, because she has a special group of kids who I think can get a great attachment with this project,” she said. “This is something great she can do with her kids, and some of the kids are, quite frankly, a little lost, so I think this will be good for them.”

Margaret Grace, an educational coordinator with the Heidelberg Project, said she and the rest of the staff were more than willing to work with the Berkley School District in creating this fundraiser.

“We are excited about this project and would like to thank Adelaide and the Tri-County school for involving students in giving back to the greater community,” Grace said. “Proceeds from the ceramic pieces will benefit the Art, Community and Environmental Education Program, which was developed to supplement the lack of art education in Detroit schools through field trips and hands-on activities in the classroom.”

Fabiilli said she got the idea for doing ceramic tiles when she visited Europe a few years back and saw similar products on sale with the images of castles on them.

“I think enough people know the (‘Dotty-Wotty) House,’ and so the students can do this and at the same time understand how entrepreneurship here in Michigan works, and they need to learn that,” she said. “We are just creating art in the art room, and the students are putting their talent toward creating these piece, and if we can raise funds so the Heidelberg Project can do what they need to, that is the goal.”

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