Ceramics designed by students wait to be fired in a kiln at Lincoln Elementary School.  These pieces will be used in the three murals that will be installed on the south wall of the school, facing Main Street.                                               Photo by Patrick Engel

Lincoln Elementary School’s massive renovations were completed two years ago, but the building is still in the process of getting a personal touch from the students.  Over the course of the school year, three stained-glass murals were mounted on the east side of the school, one in the fall and two in the spring.  Three other ceramic murals will be installed on the south side of the building in the fall.

Each of Lincoln’s 500-plus students designed a part of these murals, which depict Lee Street Beach shoreline and lakescape.  They are next to the school’s main entrance on Forest Avenue, which faces in the direction of Lake Michigan.  Sarah Laing, a Lincoln parent and Lincoln Parent Teacher Association co-president who also serves as the project manager, explained why the beach was chosen.

“It’s a hangout for the Lincoln community,” Ms. Laing said.  “There was interest among parents to do a science enrichment piece, and this was important to do for recognizing the area.”

Ms. Laing also said the beach relates to topics that many Lincoln students studied in the past year.  The ceramic murals will have a biodiversity focus.  She said the goal of the project is to link arts and sciences curriculum.  In science classes, students have studied the water cycle and ecosystems, while learning about ceramics in art class.

All the murals were designed by Sonata Kazimieraitiene of the Chicago Public Arts Group.  She also serves as the lead artist for the project.  After the students designed their pieces, Ms. Kazimieraitiene took the pieces to Lill Street Arts Center in Chicago, where they were fabricated and assembled.  A Lincoln parent, Minduaguas Vitkauskas, a stained glass designer, donated the glass for the project.

Thanks to a new art room that came with the school’s renovations, the ceramic murals will be assembled entirely at Lincoln.  Lincoln art teacher Amanda Taggart said the project would not have been possible without the renovated and upgraded art room.

“The kiln enabled us to do this project,” said Ms. Taggart.  “I’ve seen the students really enjoy the project.  They know how unique it is.”

“It’s pretty unique to get the children and artistic sophistication blending so well,” added Ms. Laing.

Grants from the Illinois Arts Council (IAC), along with Foundation 65 and the Lincoln PTA, helped make the project possible.  Ms. Laing said that the IAC’s mission is to do public projects around Chicago, and Ms. Kazimieraitiene is trained “under that umbrella.”

While the process of creating and installing the mural has been valuable for students, Ms. Laing says that she hopes the murals are a symbol of the Lincoln student’s abilities for years to come.

“Hopefully, this has a life beyond itself and students can use it for decades.”