RCMS students' work hangs in Grand Rapids during ArtPrize

REED CITY — Art can come in many forms and can be achieved through a little hard work and determination. A group of Reed City Middle School students displayed their perseverance in completing a large project, which has been submitted to ArtPrize.

ArtPrize is an international art competition, in which all the entries are exhibited through Grand Rapids museums, bars, parks, restaurants, theaters and more, according to the website. Hundreds of thousands of visitors descend on Grand Rapids to see the works of art during the 19-day event, which began Wednesday, Sept. 20, and will continue through Sunday, Oct. 8.

The Reed City students’ work, Cultural Diffusion, is on display at the West Grand Neighborhood Organization, located at 415 Leonard St. NW,  Grand Rapids.

For the first time, ArtPrize has opened a category for student collaboration pieces. When Vicky Krantz, RCMS art teacher, heard of this opportunity, she pitched her plan to take student work to ArtPrize to fellow RCMS teacher, Sarah Morlock, who teaches world cultures and English language arts. The pair decided to create a large piece made of stained glass.

“We thought of the mandala, it’s the first thing we learn as a class,” Morlock said, noting that in middle school, students tend to polarize and think of themselves as parts of different groups when they are all very similar.

Morlock said the mandalas represent eternity and a person’s connection to others, which was shown throughout the three-week period students had to work on the project.

“The students care so much,” she said. “They perservered and helped each other out. The kids put a lot of work into this.”

Beginning on the first day of school, students worked to draw their mandalas on Plexiglass, then to find the right pieces in the colors they chose to fit their designs. The glass was collected for students by Jean Holland of Creatively Glass in Mount Pleasant. To complete the piece, the individual mandalas were set together in a wooden frame, built by Reed City High School shop teacher Brian Koopman and three of his students, and grout was poured between each design to help hold it in place. Lights were connected in the frame to help each mandala pop with different colors.

The more than 50 students who helped bring the piece together will get a chance to go see their piece hanging among the many other exhibits that make ArtPrize.

“I think the students are going to be shocked,” Krantz said.

Morlock agreed.

“I hope this gives the students a little boost in confidence and shows them what they can do with a little blood, sweat and tears,” she said. “They can get a lot done when they put their heads together.”

The students’ work can be voted on for the Youth Collaboration Award, sponsored by Western Michigan University. For more information on voting for an art piece, visit artprize.org/vote.