Local teens bring books to life

By Lisa Capobianco
Staff Writer
A group of local tweens and teens, under the instruction of Mary DeCroce, a local artist, created a mural that brings children’s books to life.
Six middle school and high school girls created the multimedia collage using painted faux finishes, paper and art objects on a pressed board during a mural workshop held in July at Southington Public Library. The idea began when the girls brainstormed their ideas related to mosaics that included found art objects. The “I Spy” books came to mind, and the students decided to emulate their mural after photographs from the books. The mural, titled, “I Spy With My Two Little Eyes, took eight weeks to complete with minimal guidance from DeCroce.  The girls all worked on the background and bookshelf together, and then worked individually on their own section, which displays their favorite books including “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “Harry Potter.”
Carolyn Callahan, an eighth grade student from DePaolo Middle School, created her own section of the children’s book, “As Small As An Elephant,” and also helped paint the mural. Carolyn said she enjoyed sharing her passion for art with her peers.
“We all got to know each other as we worked together,” Carolyn said. “You get to be creative, and everyone’s art is different.”
Carolyn also said she enjoyed working with DeCroce, who taught the students a number of techniques including marble finishes and scale designs. DeCroce said she was impressed with the students’ ability to work together on the project with minimal help from her.
“This was 100 percent their idea, their design, their work,” DeCroce said. “I was very proud of the final result.”
Seventh grader Tessa Trota-Smith also participated in the workshop, where she said she enjoyed learning about a variety of art techniques, including mosaics. Tessa said when she heard about the workshop, she thought it was a fun way to spend her summer days doing she loves.
“I like how you can express your feelings through art,” Tessa said.
The Community Foundation of Greater New Britain funded the workshop as well as the library’s 3-D printer with a grant worth more than $5,000. The students shared their masterpiece with other young artists from surrounding towns and cities during a showcase at the New Britain Museum of American Art.
Kathryn Matsuzaki, the coordinator of School and Family Programs at the museum said she was amazed that this group of girls was able to complete the project in only eight weeks.
“It was so wonderful to see student artwork on the walls,” Matsuzaki said.  “It was meant to be seen by not only parents and family, but also meant to be seen by actual visitors.”
Seeing their personalities shine through the artwork displayed at the museum, Matsuzaki said the workshops gave the students the opportunity to enhance their artistic skills and teamwork skills.
“Now they have something they can take with them,” she said. “I was impressed at how professional and well done they created the artwork.”
Bob Trojanowski, the vice president of operations at the foundation, said the workshop was a “gratifying experience” for students who are interested in the arts.
“It allowed us to combine art with education,” Trojanowksi said. “It is really the kids working together as a team.”

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