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Grand Ridge Grade School rolls out collaborative mosaic sphere

Susan Burton, left, and Erin Shinnick, Grand Ridge Grade School art teacher, stand behind the mosaic art piece Burton created to display at the school. Students helped complete the piece.
Susan Burton, left, and Erin Shinnick, Grand Ridge Grade School art teacher, stand behind the mosaic art piece Burton created to display at the school. Students helped complete the piece.

The creative spirit is alive at Grand Ridge Grade School with a "Sphere of Spirit" sculpture attributed by lead artist Susan Burton to "the inspiring energy of all who have worked on it and the spirit of the school's passionate vision."

Burton and art teacher Erin Shinnick collaborated over the last two years, with contributions from students and families, to roll out a glass mosaic sphere 30 inches in diameter and made of orange, mirrored and assorted other colors of glass mosaic pieces.

Shinnick said she wanted to use Burton's experience and skills in the classroom.

"I like to try to collaborate with local area artists during the school's fine arts night," Shinnick said. "I thought it would be really cool to try to do some type of artwork with the students and families that visited the fine arts night, that way it would be an art work that our whole school, staff and families had a hand in creating together."

This mosaic form was hand sculpted using a large yoga ball, special Styrofoam and the Polyadam concrete system. The system consists of new age polymers added to materials that have been used for centuries. After applying the gems and glass, it was grouted. 

The sculpture took more than 160 hours to complete.

"Students not only placed mosaic pieces when they came to fine arts night, but they also got to place a few other pieces of the glass when they came to art class," said Shinnick "I tried to let them choose where they felt their piece of glass should go so they could make their own personal mark on the artwork."

"Everyone who placed pieces of glass, mirror, gems and other items on the sphere has become an artist in this collaborative project," Burton said. "The sculpture holds the school's spirit and is a long, lasting legacy of the collaborative art experience."

Shinnick has found meaning in the collaborative work for the school and the community.

"A mosaic and all the little pieces used and placed by our community, students, staff and families represents how we all work together to make beautiful things happen," she said. "Educating our students takes many different elements to roll them into a well rounded, beautiful human being — all of these little pieces put together makes one beautiful creation. The hands (on the sphere) show how we work and collaborate together to make this happen day in and day out."

Shinnick is eager to continue dressing up the school with the students' creativity.

"We have lots of empty walls with our new addition and I have some ideas that I am very excited about."

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