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Teacher to travel to 3 Venices on quest for mosaic knowledge

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By Ellie Bogue of The News-Sentinel

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 7:58 am

What do Venice, Calif., Fla., and Italy all have in common?Mosaics.

Art teachers Mary Hilger, of Indian Springs Middle School inColumbia City, along with Mary Sorrell, of Brookville and Laurel schools havereceived a grant from the federal Fund For Teachers to learn more about makingmosaics.

Hilger, a 2007 Lilly Grant Foundation winner, said she met Sorrellat an Art Education Association of Indiana state convention last fall and thetwo hit it off. They shared a common interest in learning more about makingmosaics, so it seemed natural that they applied for the grant. Hilger said ittook them three months to complete the application, and she was surprised andexcited they were awarded the grant on their first try.

“I applied for the Lilly Foundation Grant four times before I wasa recipient, “ Hilger said.

Since 2001 the fund for teachers has invested more than $22million in 6,000 teachers' careers. This year they awarded 525 grants with onlytwo in Indiana.

The women will start their tour June 12 with a four-day trip toVenice Calif., to The Mosaic House. While there they will meet withprofessional artists Cheri Pann and Gonzalo Duran and tour their home whilelearning more about the mosaic techniques the artists used. Colorful mosaicscover the home's walls, front porch, benches, walkways and entryways. Theteachers will make a videotape of their experience and take it back to showtheir students.

From their they will fly to Venice, Fla., where they will spend timewith "the Mosaic Mermaid" Nancy Olliver to learn contemporary methodsfor making mosaic and each create a mosaic memory jar to be shipped home.Olliver creates jewelry and furniture using broken pieces, often from itemstreasured by people.

Then it's off to Venice, Italy, where they will be going to theAngelo Orsoni Mosaic Foundry. For five days they will work with professionalartists and be immersed in an intensive mosaic workshop using gold leaf andhand-cut opaque glass tiles. They will learn about traditional tools, cuttingmaterials and firing techniques. They will be staying at the Orsoni bed andbreakfast, which Hilger said means they will be able to work long hours becauseit is connected to the workshop. They will be making their own pieces ofartwork there that will be shipped home as well as touring historic mosaicsites in the area.

“I am going as a learner and I will bring back my knowledge to thekids; at this stage in my career, it's a pretty exciting event,” Hilger said.

Hilger, a 30-year veteran of teaching, said there is nothingbetter than hands-on learning and that's exactly what they will be doing onthis trip. Everything she learns will be brought back and incorporated into herteaching curriculum. Once she has taught her students the basics of makingtheir own mosaics, Hilger said she is planning to do a schoolwide project. Theproject will involve students in making a large mosaic of the school eagle/starlogo out of found materials, primarily plastic bottle caps that they can paintin different colors. The final mosaic will be 4-by-8-feet.

“We need something light because it will be hung up on a steelbeam,” Hilger said.

An added bonus to the trip will be a blog of Flat Stanley, a papercutout doll, who will be touring all their experiences with them, and postingas they go. Hilger said you don't have to be a student an Indian Springs tofollow them. Just go to http://mosiactravels.blogspot.com.