Art installation enlivens Meridian campus

Abby Crespin, Features Editor

While the architects of FCCPS’s new Meridian high school reimagined its layout in a modern and sleek design, members of the school think they may have lost some of the old building’s character and comfort. 

To combat this issue, former art and ceramics teacher Mr. Marc Robarge has returned to the school to incorporate artwork across the campus using designs inspired by equity, science, connection, and creativity. 

Mr. Robarge returned to MHS as an Artist in Residence, an artist who collaborates with a school to formulate an art project to benefit the campus. 

“After I retired, I knew I wanted to do something to give back to the school and to the community,” he said. His recent retirement has provided him with time and opportunity to initiate the project. 

Mr. Robarge will conduct workshops with each Stable Group through May, and in between prepare additional aspects of the piece

Mr. Robarge shapes and cuts clay for student use in a Stable Group work session. (Photo courtesy of Ms. Weston)

including drawings, color studies, kiln work, and painting. Each student will have the opportunity to participate in the creation of the project.

“We wanted to try to get every student in the school involved,” he explained. Mr. Robarge leads his workshops during Stable Group blocks, Tuesday through Friday.

Mr. Robarge initially began the project by discussing his ideas with Ms. Leigh and Ms. Gurgo, the two current art teachers at the secondary schools. He then presented his ideas to the administration, all of whom were very enthusiastic, especially the Head of Secondary Schools, Ms. Valarie Hardy.

Last year, The Lasso profiled Ms. Hardy, where she expressed her discontent with the lack of artwork and community connection across the school. Ms. Hardy now voices her excitement for the new initiative.

“What [Mr. Robarge] is facilitating among our entire student population is exactly what I had hoped for those empty spaces we discussed,” she said. “I feel like each student needs a way to express their creativity and leave it somewhere permanent as a reminder of the beauty we all have within.”

After receiving positive feedback from administrative leaders, Mr. Robarge requested and obtained a grant from the Falls Church Education Foundation, which now funds the project.

“Everybody was very positive about the projects,” he commented.

Mr. Robarge kept the school’s goals in mind as he designed each piece of artwork, including community involvement, collaboration, and making connections across disciplines. The primary project he designed is called “Through the Looking Glass: A Murmuration of Cellular Life”, a 3D art installation inspired by a Norwegian natural history museum’s display on pollen grains.

Mr. Robarge’s life-size drawing of the plan for the murmuration is currently featured on the third-floor wall. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Robarge)

“I had English, I had art and imagination,” Mr. Robarge said excitedly, as he explained how each aspect of the project incorporates different components of the school’s aspirations. He detailed the dual meaning of the name “Through the Looking Glass” as both a literary allusion to “Alice in Wonderland” and a connection to microscopic studies, involving English and science, as well as a focus on creativity and imagination throughout the piece.

The murmuration will be featured on the third-floor wall by the lockers, and the murals will be painted on the 5th floor in the “airport lounge”.

“There’s going to be these very flowing, rhythmic, gradients of yellow on both walls where the two booths are. So you’ll be sitting in this cool space surrounded by this cool energy,” Mr. Robarge described.

Mr. Robarge’s plans to enhance the appearance and mood of the school spark hope and excitement. If the project is successful, students and staff can look forward to new developments across the campus. Mr. Robarge commented on his hopes for the future of the project. “I could see this growing.”