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A Portal to the Past

Article Published: Oct. 13, 2011 | Modified: Oct. 13, 2011
A Portal to the Past

WHS artist-in-residence Pam Brewer displays clay rhododendron leaves created by student artists last week. After being glazed and fired, they will become part of a new permanent mosaic on the main floor of the school.

Photo by Jeff Eason

With funds depleting for artists-in-residency programs at local schools, art students at Watauga High School are taking full advantage of one going on right now.

“There are 500 kids involved in the mosaic project,” WHS artist-in-residence Pam Brewer said. “It is a two-week residency. I’m working with them ... on the first half of the project, and I’ll return in the spring for the second half of the project.”

The project is a 125-square-foot mosaic that will be built on the backside of the elevator shaft on the main floor of Watauga High School.

“I wanted it to be a tribute to the old Watauga High School, as well as a look forward to the future,” Brewer said. “When I graduated from Watauga High School in 1972, there was no art program. Now it has one of the best in the state.”

Last week, art students created the individual pieces for the mosaic by making clay rhododendron leaves, ferns, tree bark and even water for the mosaics forest scene. Once dried, the pieces will be glazed and then fired over the rest of the semester.

In the spring semester, Brewer will return and she and the students will put the whole thing together.

Although it is not the official title of the piece, the theme of the project is “seeds of learning.”

“This is not your typical mosaic process, because it so large and there are so many hands involved,” Brewer said. “I calculated that it would have taken me four and a half months to accomplish what these 500 students have accomplished this week.”

Brewer, a full-time ceramicist who lives in Newland, said that the High Country has become a thriving center for the art form during the past 30 years.

“I wanted the mosaic’s image to have lasting relevance because it is going to be here 50 years from now,” she said. “I chose a nature scene because the environment is such a powerful force in our lives here in the mountains and because this is a green school. The mosaic’s design includes a portal that can be interpreted as both a portal to the future or a portal to the past.”

This artist-in-residency and public art project is the result of a collaboration between the Watauga Arts Council and Watauga County Schools in an effort to celebrate the recent move of Watauga High School to its new facility and to honor the community that shares and enjoys the new space.

For more information on this, or other Arts in Education programs of the Watauga Arts Council, contact Christy Blair Chenausky at (828) 264-1789 or

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