Students piece together Hermiston Butte art project


Community Editor

For three years, groups of fifth graders from Highland Hills Elementary School pounded away on a mosaic art project depicting a local landmark.

Art teacher Patrick Temple said students particularly enjoyed “breaking days” while working on “A Portrait of the Hermiston Butte.”

“Students used hammers and lots of enthusiasm in smashing plates, tiles and cups to be used in the mosaic,” he said.

The approximately 3-foot by 5-foot piece will go to the highest bidder during the Feb. 4 Hermiston Education Foundation Beach & Beef Dinner and Auction. Temple called the mosaic an “heirloom” piece.

“We’re pretty excited to have that as one of the major auction items — it’s beautiful,” said Tori Espinosa, treasurer of the Hermiston Education Foundation. “It’s neat that he’s getting these students more involved in the arts at an earlier age.”

In his 13th year in the Hermiston School District, Temple has worked on two other mosaic projects with students — including one on display in the Highland Hills library and the other at Martha’s House. The Butte project began in 2013.

Temple has undertaken many mosaics on his own, and likes the process of re-using and re-purposing materials. He enjoys sharing his interests with his students, especially the metaphor of mosaics.

“It’s all built from shattered and broken pieces. Many of the items we use might just be thrown away ... but we found a use for it,” he said. “Students begin to see that no matter how broken something seems, there is value.”

Suggested initially by one of his students, Temple said the idea moved from the conceptional stage to choosing particular students to work on the project. Prior to actually beginning to piece together the mosaic, they discussed the history of the art form, the importance of safety while working on the project and learning about techniques.

From the beginning, the plan was to use it as a fundraiser for the Hermiston Education Foundation. The group, Temple said, enhances educational opportunities throughout the district by providing grants for special programs and projects.

After tackling the project, Temple found it was going to take longer than he had anticipated. Students looked forward to meeting together to work on the project — but also wanted time to visit and be silly, Temple said.

“I had to reconcile to myself ... while we were making progress, it wasn’t all necessarily focused on the mosaic,” he said.

Temple brought some plates and tiles as examples of materials to be used for the project. He then asked students to collect items that could be re-purposed for the Butte mosaic — letting them know what color tones were needed.

“That’s part of the mosaic experience,” Temple explained. “Students would come back and say where they got that piece.”

In addition, Temple used tape to divide the project into sections. Students were then assigned a portion they were responsible for.

It also helped students begin to envision the process. When a piece is so big, Temple said, students couldn’t see progress when they were laying down a dime-sized piece of material — but they could see their section filling up.

“That’s what made it click,” Temple said. “They took ownership of their section.”

The completed project is currently on display at the Hermiston Conference Center.

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