Freeport High School students practice the art of building community

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FREEPORT — Sometimes school work is about more than just receiving a good grade.

For Freeport High School students enrolled in art classes, the pieces they’re making are about creating community and decorating the addition being built at their school.

“It makes it feel like it’s not part of your grade,” ninth-grader Katie Morrissey said. “It makes it feel like you’re contributing to the community.”

More than 50 students are working on the art project with local artists Catherine Breer and Liz Prescott. Created with the theme of community in mind, the pieces will be hung in the addition and in the renovated areas of the school.

“We have so many areas in the new school that need artwork,” Breer said.

Breer said the project is a great way to bring together students from Freeport, Pownal and Durham, the three towns that make up Regional School Unit 5.

“I think it’s a great opportunity because we’re building this school as an RSU and there’s been such divisiveness among the RSU, but the three towns are so vital to each other,” she said.

Four types of art will be hung, two of which have already been started. Mandalas, which are circular pieces of art with intricate designs, will symbolize community, Breer said.

Students are also working on paintings loosely based on aerials of different areas of the three towns. The students each printed maps and are painting them on 12-by-12-inch squares of wood. Morrissey said it’s been fun because the aerials can be as realistic or unrealistic as students want.

“You can make it your own and make it look however you see fit,” she said. “There’s a lot of artistic license.”

Breer said that’s important since the school is there for the kids.

“We want students to take ownership of this,” she said.

According to FHS art teacher Charles Andreson, the squares will be hung to look like a cohesive map.

“We have kids here from Freeport, Durham and Pownal working on places that are important to them and part of the larger community,” he said.

Andreson said it’s important for the students to work on projects that will be displayed for a long time.

“I think it’s an authentic experience for them to be doing art that will be displayed,” he said.

The other two projects, which will happen later in the year, are a three-dimensional mural and a photography contest. The contest will happen in the fall and will be open to residents of any of the three towns in the district. Multiple winners will be chosen and the images will be printed on pieces of aluminum.

“We’ll have a nice variety, but the whole idea is that everything is created by students and the community,” Breer said.

Breer added that FHS art teachers Andreson and Kimberly Medsker-Mehalic have played a big role in the project.

“The art teachers have been instrumental,” Breer said. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Breer and Prescott, who are both parents of RSU 5 students, are on the art committee, which is a subcommittee of the building committee for the addition and renovation. The School Board allotted $50,000 for the art project, but the art committee only took $15,000 and Breer said they’ve “hardly spent any of it.”

A $14.6 million bond to renovate the high school was approved by voters in November 2013 and, in October 2015, the RSU 5 board accepted a bid of around $10.7 million from Sheridan Corp., a Portland-based commercial construction company.

Renovations include a two-story addition of almost 30,000 square feet and other site alterations. The addition, which will mostly be on the northwest side of the building, will house a kitchen, cafeteria, band room and several classrooms.

Another part of the project will be improvements to the flow of traffic for cars, buses and pedestrians. The renovation also includes removing the high school’s industrial arts building.

Andreson said working on the project with local artists has made the students feel like they have a role to play in the renovations.

“They are really receptive when Catherine and Liz come in,” Andreson said. “They like that this is bigger than just a grade.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Freeport High School ninth-grader Katie Morrissey, right, said creating art for the renovated high school allows students to feel like they’re part of the larger community.

Some of the art for the renovations at Freeport High School, including aerials of Freeport, Pownal and Durham, is completed and temporarily hanging at the Freeport Performing Arts Center, which is attached to the school.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.