"You've gotta be kidding," is what Dale Perkins, Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School's buildings and grounds superintendent, thought when he was asked recently to "do a little favor" for Robin Clark, outgoing high school art teacher.
Clark, who retired at the end of the 2011-12 school year, tried hard to reassure Perkins. Still, you could see his misgivings as she explained how a pile of seemingly unrelated things scattered on the art room floor, would turn into a work of art when grouped together and hung on an up-'til-now pristine white wall.
Actually, this project was a while in the making, having gotten its start "way back in October." That's when Clark thought it might be fun to involve the community in her idea to brighten one of the school's empty stairwells. So she wrote an invitation, put it in the C-LV newsletter, and was gratified, indeed, to receive answers from several stalwart souls offering their services.
Group members admire an upside-down view of their masterpiece after fitting it together on the art room floor. From left are Robin Clark, Fran Lovell, Diane Chinchen, Nancy Bar, Marie Clendening (kneeling), and Elliott Hutten.
Robin Clark consults the master plan, as others in the group try, for the first time, to see the big picture. From left: Marie Clendening, Fran Lovell, Robin Clark, Diane Chinchen, and Nancy Barr.
The group held their first formal meeting in January, their initial task being to come up with a theme. After considerable discussion, they decided to paint a series of related scenes, depicting various aspects of school life. Although unsure how to put the scenes together, far less how to get them onto the wall, they blithely decided to move ahead, and leave that task to Perkins. After all, everyone knew how much he liked a challenge - and this would certainly be that.
For months, the artists labored - planning, replanning - painting, repainting. Some volunteers devoted themselves to a single part of the whole, while others set their brushes to several different panels. For instance, one with a talent for shadows, might provide shade in multiple pictures. Another who could draw good hands, would "lend a hand" where needed. Usually, they met Monday evenings in the high school art room, and worked for as long as they could stand it.
The "gang of seven" who joined forces to work on this arty enterprise were: Nancy Barr, Elliott Hutton, Diane Chinchen, Marie Clendening, Karen Keuther and their token male, Fran Lovell. Oh yes, and Robin Clark was there throughout, her faithful dog, Babe, also in attendance.
In late July, Perkins finally caved to the group's blandishments, and the moment of truth arrived.
The superintendent and his trusty sidekick, Matt Sanders, erected a scaffold on the stair landing chosen for the installation. With stud finder poised and drill/drivers at the ready, they climbed atop the rig, bracing themselves to haul up the various parts of the picture and coax them into position. Most of the artistes themselves arrived ahead of time, eager to participate in "the hanging."
Each contributor carried a "part" of the picture up the staircase to the base of the scaffold.
From there, they handed them up, one at a time. With each new contribution, Perkins whipped out his tape measure, eyed his level, peered at the "master plan" one more time, then gingerly triggered his drill. Hole by hole, hunk by hunk, the parts of the puzzle found their homes.