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Art in the Garden unites Fraser Buddies, students for a cause

By: Nico Rubello | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published May 25, 2012

 Earlier this month, about 60 Emerson Elementary School fourth-graders each made two ceramic tiles with the help of Fraser High School art students. Pictured, Nick Alport, Haylee Hawkins, Marisa Sciriha and Thomas McNelis hold up their completed tiles.

Earlier this month, about 60 Emerson Elementary School fourth-graders each made two ceramic tiles with the help of Fraser High School art students. Pictured, Nick Alport, Haylee Hawkins, Marisa Sciriha and Thomas McNelis hold up their completed tiles.

FRASER — Fraser elementary students, high schoolers and the Fraser Buddies, a city-sponsored group for adults with cognitive disabilities, recently teamed up with a local nonprofit group to craft more than 100 ceramic tiles that, as of next month, will be used to decorate city gardens and benefit the barrier-free McKinley Park initiative.

Earlier this month, about 60 fourth-graders from Emerson Elementary took a field trip to Fraser High School, where they collaborated with about 30 high school art students. Together, the elementary and high school students broke off into groups, hand-rolling the clay and then fashioning and decorating it into ceramic tiles.

In all, the students crafted nearly 120 ceramic tiles. With their high school counterpart’s guidance, each elementary student created two tiles.

“One will stay in the gardens at the library or Baumgartner House Museum. The other will be auctioned in June at the (Fraser) Activity Center,” explained Vania Apps, president of the Fraser First Booster Club. The nonprofit group is dedicated to upgrading city parks, beginning with McKinley Park on Grove Street, north of Van Avenue.

The auction will run from 1 to 2:30 p.m. June 9. The Fraser Activity Center is located at 34935 Hidden Pine Dr, south of 15 Mile.

Apps said proceeds from the Art in the Garden Auction will benefit the nonprofit’s ongoing initiative to equip McKinley Park with Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant playground equipment, which will allow the park to accommodate people with and without physical and sensory challenges.

The other half of the tiles will soon adorn the outdoor gardens of the Baumgartner House Museum at Masonic and Kelly, and the Fraser Public Library, on 14 Mile, just west of Utica Road.

The community project, Apps said, was a “cool way” to introduce the students to the museum and library, as well as to foster creativity and involvement in the proposed barrier-free park project.

Fraser First is in the process of raising cash and in-kind donations, which the group hopes will help qualify the project for a state grant. The group expects to next hear back from the state in December.

“Always our intention has been to put this park in the ground through fundraisers, through grant opportunities, through corporate giving, and even a sponsorship program,” Apps said.

Emerson art teacher Becki Babcock said the Fraser High School students helped the fourth-graders fashion the clay into different shapes, giving them design ideas. She said the fourth-graders were excited to collaborate with the older students — carving, cutting and building up the clay into different shapes — but they were also excited to be able to donate their artwork to the community.

“It was just a cooperative project for both levels,” Babcock added.

The theme of the project was tactility, with students adding texture to the clay tiles to make them pleasing to the touch for everyone, including those with visual impairments and sensory challenges.

Fraser High School art teacher Susan Stieber DiPace said her high school students were instructed that, while they should let the fourth-graders express themselves creatively, they should offer proper instruction on making ceramics. Too thick and the tiles would explode when heated; too thin and they would crack.

DiPace said she was impressed by the social consciousness displayed by her high schoolers.

“I think they are very interested in the fact that this project is raising money for barrier-free playground equipment,” she said. “We’re already thinking about what we’re going to do next year.”

The Fraser Buddies also painted rocks for the gardens and made tiles for the gardens and auction.

Christina Woods, the city’s Buddies coordinator, said the Buddies were eager to participate.

“These are individuals who understand how difficult it can be to be a child with disabilities, so the fact that they are helping this great cause to raise funds to create a structure that they would have benefited from is really wonderful,” Woods said.

The tiles and painted rocks will be viewable in the garden throughout the summer.

A representative from Fraser First will on hand to answer questions and guide them through the gardens at the Baumgartner House Museum from 4-6 p.m. June 1; 1-6 p.m. June 2 and 3; and 4-6 p.m. June 7 and 8.

At the Fraser Public Library, garden viewings will run from 3-5 p.m. June 1; 1-5 p.m. June 2; and 3-6 p.m. June 7 and 8.

The Emerson fourth-graders, Fraser High School students and Fraser Buddies were honored at the Fraser City Council meeting on May 10.