Creating a masterwork, one piece at a time

  • Sophomore Emilee Boivin works on a Ferris wheel Tuesday afternoon for the mosaic mural. Shortly after the photo was taken, Boivin transferred the completed piece to the larger mural. —GAZETTE STAFF/JOSHUA MURRAY

  • Junior Anecia Solorzano works on placing green glass pieces to represent glass on the mosaic mural Tuesday afternoon at Belchertown High School. Joshua Murray—GAZETTE STAFF/JOSHUA MURRAY

  • Belchertown’s Clapp Memorial Library is featured in the mosaic mural being made by Belchertown High School students. Once completed, the mural will be hung in the library. —GAZETTE STAFF/JOSHUA MURRAY

  • From left: Juniors Anecia Solorzano and Mitchell Bolton, along with sophomore Nicole Oberg work on the mosaic at Belchertown High School Tuesday afternoon. Once completed, the mural will be hung in the Clapp Memorial Library. —GAZETTE STAFF/JOSHUA MURRAY

  • Using more than 80 drawings done by students, Easthampton artist Christine Kenneally designed the mural which students at Belchertown High School will create using mosaic tiles.  GAZETTE STAFF/JOSHUA MURRAY

  • Visiting artist Christine Kenneally (left) helps sophomore Emilee Boivin to place her completed piece onto the mosaic at Belchertown High School Tuesday afternoon. —GAZETTE STAFF/JOSHUA MURRAY

  • From Left: Visiting artist Christine Kenneally instructs juniors Anecia Solorzano and Mitchell Bolton as they work on the mosaic Tuesday afternoon at Belchertown High School. —GAZETTE STAFF/JOSHUA MURRAY

  • A group of students in Lori St. Pierre’s art class at Belchertown High School work to place glass tiles on a mosaic mural Tuesday afternoon. Once completed, the mural will be hung at the town’s library. GAZETTE STAFF/JOSHUA MURRAY

  • Sophomore Nova Albrecht cuts pieces of glass as he works on completing his piece for the mosaic at Belchertown High School Tuesday afternoon.  —GAZETTE STAFF/JOSHUA MURRAY

  • A group of students in Lori St. Pierre’s art class at Belchertown High School work to place glass tiles on a mosaic mural Tuesday afternoon. Once completed, the mural will be hung at the town’s library. —GAZETTE STAFF/JOSHUA MURRAY

  • A bear is one of the many elements in the mosaic mural being made by Belchertown High School students. Once completed, the mural will be on display at the Clapp Memorial Library. GAZETTE STAFF/JOSHUA MURRAY

Published: 3/2/2017 12:50:00 PM

BELCHERTOWN — Local students are immortalizing this community’s natural beauty, music scene and athletic achievements in glass with help from an area artist and state grant.

Belchertown High School students in Lori St. Pierre’s art classes have spent the last few weeks turning the community’s notable features into a mosaic mural with visiting Easthampton artist Christine Kenneally.

“It’s a great experience to show them people can make a living off of their art,” St. Pierre said. “It’s good for them to know that.”

Taking a class with Kenneally piqued St. Pierre’s interest in mosaics. But she wasn’t sure how to bring her newfound passion in the art form into her classroom.

Using a $3,000 Students and Teachers Working with Artists, Scientists, and Scholars (STARS) grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, bringing the mosaic project to fruition became a reality. Without the grant, the school couldn’t afford enlisting the help of a visiting artist, St. Pierre said.

As the students filed into St. Pierre’s room Tuesday afternoon, they grabbed goggles and examined the large mosaic, discussing the progress made during other class periods. Even before the bell marking the start of class rang, a few students had begun work.

Around three dozen teenagers across three classes have played a role in crafting the colorful work of art: cutting glass into smaller segments and strategically placing — and sometimes replacing — pieces to get the design just right.

“They’ve made a bear with fur, birds with feathers, water flowing,” Kenneally said.

Before the mural design was finalized, students created images of what they believe makes Belchertown special. Kenneally then took the 80 to 90 pictures and incorporated them into one design that showcases the town’s natural beauty, notable buildings as well as the school’s importance in the community.

“The two of us pulled it together to be cohesive,” Kenneally said of her and St. Pierre’s work.

The finished mosaic will go on display in Belchertown’s Clapp Memorial Library. An unveiling reception will be held April 6 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

“It seems like a perfect collaboration and a way for everyone in town to appreciate what the kids are doing,” said Library Director Sheila McCormick. “To have it become a part of the library is exciting.”

Reached Wednesday by phone, McCormick had not yet seen the mural. She was eagerly anticipating the moment.

“I can’t wait to see how just exactly it will capture Belchertown,” she said. “I understand there are some elements of the Quabbin, the library and a Belchertown feel to it, which will be very lovely.”

The high school and library have teamed up in the past to display works of arts. The mosaic, though, will be a permanent installation.

“It’s exciting to be able to have this kind of collaboration with the high school,” McCormick said. “I feel like it is really important for us to be able to extend the reach of these students and let the rest of the community see what they are capable of and what they are creating, and it’s great for the library.”

Over the last few weeks, participating students went from thinking of glass as something not to be touched to being able to manipulate it for their art, Kenneally said.

Some prefer to cut perfect squares while others excel at chipping off pieces of glass, she said. Because it is made up of so many pieces, constructing a mosaic is a perfect project for a large group of contributors, Kenneally said.

In addition to exploring a new medium, the students have learned how to look at the piece critically to assess if it’s working, Kenneally said.

Some aspects proved controversial, though. A large tree featured in the center of the piece spurred a bit of a debate.

“Everyone had different thoughts on what the tree should be,” Kenneally said.

And then there’s the physical makeup of the artwork. Should it be made with large pieces of glass or smaller ones? What about medium-sized pieces? Where was their place in the piece? In the end, a mix of all sizes was used.

While a few students struggled with relinquishing complete artistic control over the piece, others enjoyed the collaborative spirit of the project.

“Some people have found it hard … to let go of the whole thing being their own,” Sophomore Schuyler Bright said. “I haven’t found it that hard. I think it’s more interesting that it’s collective.”

St. Pierre said it was good for students to experience a community project.

“That giving up of ownership is a humbling lesson to learn sometimes,” she said.

Bright, 16, has worked on a variety of the mosaic’s aspects, including a fox, apple and the sky.

“I’ve never worked with mosaic,” she said. “I think it’s interesting and fun.”

Deciding on the right placement of the hand-cut tiles can be difficult, as is deciding on the proper level “vagueness,” according to Bright.

“Not using so many colors that you can’t tell what it is (depicting) but not using one flat color so that it is boring,” she explained.

Kirsten Burkey, 15, was busy working on the mural’s blue sky background. Her strategy, she said, was to employ more rectangular shaped pieces of glass.

As for the medium, Burkey said she liked it. Not only was it fun, but Burkey said it was easier than she expected to cut the glass.

“I think it’s pretty cool that we get to make something for the town that will stay up for a while,” she said.

Across the table for Burkey, sophomore Aurelia “Re” Delaney worked to complete the black pants on a trumpet player.

“It’s been really fun,” Delaney said. “I like using all the different shapes.”

For junior Liam Calnan, 16, the enjoyment comes from the diversity of the material.

“I think it’s fun,” he said. “It’s a lot different than most of the stuff we normally do.”

Emily Cutts can be reached at

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