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Northampton students turn city snowplows into public art

  • Frida Karney Dunetz,10 of Northampton, works on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow at Bridge Street School as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning. <br/><br/>

    Frida Karney Dunetz,10 of Northampton, works on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow at Bridge Street School as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning.

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  • <br/>Bridge Street school students  work on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow l as part of an art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning. <br/><br/><br/>


    Bridge Street school students work on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow l as part of an art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning.


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  • <br/>Brenda Lilly, the art teacher at Bridge Street School in Northampton, works with Jared Kubin,10, on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning. <br/><br/><br/>


    Brenda Lilly, the art teacher at Bridge Street School in Northampton, works with Jared Kubin,10, on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning.


    Purchase photo reprints »

  • <br/>Brenda Lilly, the art teacher at Bridge Street School in Northampton, works with students on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning. <br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>


    Brenda Lilly, the art teacher at Bridge Street School in Northampton, works with students on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning.




    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Colby Moore,9,of Northampton, works on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow at Bridge Street School as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning. <br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Colby Moore,9,of Northampton, works on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow at Bridge Street School as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning.



    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Frida Karney Dunetz,10 of Northampton, works on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow at Bridge Street School as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning.

    Frida Karney Dunetz,10 of Northampton, works on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow at Bridge Street School as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Frida Karney Dunetz,10 of Northampton, works on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow at Bridge Street School as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning.

    Frida Karney Dunetz,10 of Northampton, works on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow at Bridge Street School as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Frida Karney Dunetz,10 of Northampton, works on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow at Bridge Street School as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning. <br/><br/>
  • <br/>Bridge Street school students  work on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow l as part of an art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning. <br/><br/><br/>
  • <br/>Brenda Lilly, the art teacher at Bridge Street School in Northampton, works with Jared Kubin,10, on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning. <br/><br/><br/>
  • <br/>Brenda Lilly, the art teacher at Bridge Street School in Northampton, works with students on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning. <br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Colby Moore,9,of Northampton, works on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow at Bridge Street School as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning. <br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Frida Karney Dunetz,10 of Northampton, works on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow at Bridge Street School as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning.
  • Frida Karney Dunetz,10 of Northampton, works on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow at Bridge Street School as part of a art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning.

— Bridge Street School fourth graders are hoping for an early snow this season — but not for the usual reasons of a precious day off or a romp on Hospital Hill.

The students are eager for a glimpse of the city plow that will be clearing the streets around their school building.

That’s because the snowplow, one of five the city Department of Public Works has set aside for a special public art project, now bears mini-murals the fourth graders designed and painted onto its big metal blade.

Four other city snowplows are being decorated by third and fourth graders at Jackson Street, R.K. Finn Ryan Road and Leeds elementary schools, and sixth, seventh and eighth graders at JFK Middle School.

“When the plow comes around, I’ll tell all my friends about it,” said Jalen Silva, one of more than a dozen Bridge Street students putting the finishing touches on their plow outside the school Thursday.

“We’re doing it for the town,” said classmate Davon Nowak as he donned an apron and took up a paintbrush. “We want it to snow!”

The design for Bridge Street’s plow combines elements of Vincent Van Gogh’s famous “Starry Night” painting with a time machine called the TARDIS from the British TV series “Doctor Who.”

Other mural images include a “star otter,” the school’s initials and a thank-you message to the DPW.

“It’s complex,” said school art teacher Brenda Lilly with a smile. “It’s great for the students to be thinking about their art in another medium. We’ve never worked on a plow before.”

Margaret Riddle, principal of the R.K. Finn Ryan Road School, quipped that the student murals are “like legal graffiti.”

“Whenever we can, we try to connect our kids to the community and give them opportunities to shine,” Riddle said. “We’re so excited that our kids will be seeing their creations driving around town.”

The idea for the art project was one that Richard Parasiliti Jr., street superintendent for the city DPW, said he’d been kicking around for several years.

He was partly inspired by the 2000 Chevy Chase movie “Snow Day,” where a group of schoolchildren hijack a municipal snowplow.

“I thought, instead of having kids throwing snowballs at the plow trucks, maybe they’d see their artwork and feel some ownership,” said Parasiliti, a 23-year DPW veteran.

After reading an article in a recent public works trade journal about a snowplow art project in Green Bay, Wis., he decided to launch one for Northampton.

Parasiliti contacted Riddle at the start of the school year, and she helped bring in teachers from the other city schools. In September, the art teachers were invited to inspect snowplows parked in the city garage so they could plan their designs. The DPW also provided $1,500 for paint and clearcoating of the finished murals.

The biggest challenge, said Leslie Macutkiewiz, who teaches art at Ryan Road and Leeds, was selecting images for the murals. “Our students voted on them,” she said. “It was a great exercise.”

At Ryan Road, the plow mural is of a snowy landscape with a long road in the distance, she said. The one for Leeds school shows a leopard — the official mascot — and a cougar, to represent Clarke School students, whose program is housed at Leeds this year. And the one for Jackson Street features a series of polar bears on a ledge.

At JFK, art teacher Herschel Levine said he and his department colleague Michelle Mallory selected designs submitted by students in all three middle school grades. The plow mural will feature the school’s trademark husky.

The task of painting the mural has been an after-school project for about a dozen students. “We thought it would be hard to get more than that around that plow,” Levine said.

Back at Bridge Street, the fourth graders scampered happily around their bright orange snowplow blade on Thursday, fearlessly applying paint to its front and back.

After about 15 minutes, Lilly asked them to step back and review their work.

“I think we could use a little more grey here,” she said to fourth grader Pippa Watts, a “Doctor Who” fan working on the time machine panel. “All we need to do is outline the TARDIS.”

While art isn’t his usually his favorite subject in school, Sonam Salsedo said he’d learned a lot from working on the snowplow mural.

“You can really push the limits with art,” he said.

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