The courtyard in Genoa Middle School is now filled with cement pavers covered in brightly-colored tiles and clay symbols — each representing the student artist who created them.
As part of the school’s new sculpture garden project, the pavers create a mosaic that serves as a reflection of Genoa’s student body.
And a community came together to make it happen.
A grant from the Westerville Education Foundation covered costs to bring in artist-in-residence Vicki Murphy, who worked with students to create the mosaic. Grants from the Bette Marshall Fund and the Westerville Arts Council as well as the school’s PTSA group and Principal Scott Gaddis helped cover costs for materials such as grout, stones, cement and tiles. Home Depot donated additional supplies. A Westerville City Schools bus driver also helped transport 2,000 pounds of cement. Genoa engineering teacher Lee Smith created the signage along the window that overlooks the installation.
On Saturday, Columbus Academy student Katie Zaki dedicated her Eagle Scout project to clearing the courtyard and installing the pavers, working with her Scout Troop 7365 and community volunteers.
“Without everyone’s generous support, this project would not have been possible,” said art teacher Juls Rathje, who spearheaded the project.
Rathje was interested in creating an outdoor installation in the courtyard, which is in a high-traffic area within the school. She partnered with mosaic artist Murphy, who she has collaborated with on mosaics at Genoa and other buildings in the district.
As part of the project, Rathje's students as well as those in Meegan Moore's art class created a symbol in clay that represented them and would serve as the centerpiece of their paver. They added colored tiles and stones, creating patterns and designs around their symbols.
In previous mosaic projects, students helped design mosaics by adding bits of glass or colorful ceramic tiles to large-scale murals. With Genoa’s sculpture garden project, Rathje said it’s the first time students created one individual art piece that contributed to a large mosaic installation.
“I want students to look at it and feel that their heart is represented, that they see themselves in the symbols and in the beauty of something as simple as cement and tiles,” she said. “I want them to see that they were able to make something permanent and beautiful at Genoa.”