Outdoor Art Installation of Memory Cubes

PHS Memories Cubed Outdoor Art Project
Posted on 06/07/2018

Outdoor art installation tells students’ stories at PHS

The volunteer students, teachers and parents who worked on the installation of the Ponaganset High School MEMORIES CUBED art project, stand together while working on the project. The installation took place at the school, May 26. (Breeze photos by Bill Murphy)

By JACQUELYN MOOREHEAD, Valley Breeze and Observer Staff Writer

GLOCESTER – Ponaganset High School opened its first outdoors art installation on May 26 titled Memories Cubed, a three-dimensional compilation of ceramic cube sculptures illustrating students’ personal memories or experiences.

Under the instruction of PHS art teacher Nicole Lloyd, Rhode Island College student teacher Katina Gustafson worked with 87 students to create the large-scale project. Each student sculpted stories onto hollow cubes that were stacked on 10 PVC pipes in the courtyard outside the school’s ceramic studio.

Walking between and around the poles and viewing all four sides of the boxes, the tale of the PHS student is told through symbols representing sports, seascapes, many vacation and family trips, and lasting lifelong memories.

When Gustafson, of Coventry, began student teaching at PHS last fall, she said she saw amazing skills in the students, and knew a larger project was possible.

“There’s so much talent here. When I saw their abilities, I thought I needed to do something more challenging, something about themselves to help them connect to the piece,” she said.

Inspiration came from a sculpture park she had seen in her studies, and she developed a plan with the project in mind wit full support from Lloyd, the School Committee and the administrators.

“I’m so proud of what Katina and the students accomplished here. I always want to say yes to the student teachers’ projects. It helps them and it advances our students,” Lloyd said. She added that if it were not for Gustafson, the collaboration with materials and manufacturing teacher Steve Martin would not have happened.

Gustafson said Lloyd approved of the project on the stipulation that she would see it through to completion, and on May 26, she did. Students voted on the location of the project, and Lloyd coordinated with the materials and manufacturing class to dig the holes and build the concrete foundations for the structures.

Later this spring, the agriculture class plans to seed the areas around the concrete bases disturbed by the digging, and do landscaping in the area surrounding the sculpture.

“I have a problem with dreaming big, but look what it can amount to. I have so much invested in this,” Gustafson said.

Gustafson reached out to community businesses to get the supplies needed for the project, and worked with her professor to create a weather stain that melds with the ceramic to make it more resistant to weather

Each cube is unique in its way, Gustafson said. Students wrote their stories on the project’s website, and a plaque will be made with a QR code linking the viewer to each cube’s individual story. The final touches to the project would end with the names of the students written onto the base of their block’s structure. Though some students chose to remain anonymous, every story will be coordinated with the exact location of the cube in the installation.

The Valley Breeze & Observer spoke with a student who said she chose to tell the tale of a trip to a quarry in Vermont because the scenery was beautiful and it made a lasting impression.

“The installation is beautiful, it’s really cool. I left a mark here at school,” she said.

The cube Gustafson created as an example, located on a pole to the far left, tells the story of her studies abroad, featuring the Colosseum and Eiffel Tower, among others.

Gustafson graduated from Rhode Island College last December and continued working in Coventry schools as a substitute teacher. She said the many lessons she learned at PHS would last throughout her career.

Katina Gustafson, of Coventry, a Ponaganset High School student teacher from Rhode Island College, and the coordinator of the Ceramic Story Cubes art project, applies caulk to the blocks. The installation took place at the school May 26.

One of the completed sections. student

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