The color of hope: Forest Hills art students use talents for community

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Seventh-grader Zaneya Roberson worked diligently on her painting of a moon and starry night while explaining why she wanted to paint that particular scene on a ceiling tile that will eventually be used in a treatment room at Wilson Radiology Oncology.

“I hope they (patients) like it, and when they see it they’ll see possibilities when they see all the many stars,” Zaneya said. “I see it as something that will calm somebody down and make them dream.”

Seventh- and eighth-grade students in Shelly Maloney’s Forest Hills Middle School art classes are working on several projects at once. One project involves painting ceiling tiles for use at Wilson Radiology Oncology on Medical Park Drive in Wilson and another involves a field trip to Gardners Elementary to lead several art projects involving the entire student body.

The tile project evolved out of a class study of Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel’s Renaissance ceiling art.

“Most rooms in Forest Hills already have ceiling tiles painted by school art class students,” Maloney said. “Valerie Kersey, our school nurse, suggested that the tiles could also be used in medical clinics. Wilson Radiology Oncology said yes and delivered the tiles to the school.”

In order to work on the tile project, students had to demonstrate good behavior, a history of volunteerism and artistic talent.

“These are some of the most talented individuals I’ve ever come in contact with as far as students go,” Maloney said, “and a lot of them aspire to do more with art, so I want to give them the opportunity to get their names out there.”

Eighth-grader Morgan Harris worked on her rainbow and musical notes tile for nearly two weeks.

“I was assigned to do this project with some other people, but I really did want to do it,” Morgan said. “It seemed like it had a lot of meaning, and I wanted to make people happy.”

“I think a lot of people enjoy listening to music, so that’s something that makes a lot of people happy,” Morgan continued. “Mrs. Maloney said using a lot of color would be good, and I like rainbows. Whenever you think about ‘happy,’ you think about rainbows.”

Maloney has always felt that her classes should be about more than just art.

“All year long I teach students to use their talents to help other people and think about somebody other than themselves,” Maloney said. “I just don’t teach art. I teach them lessons about life, how to treat others and how to be a better human being. That’s something that students should learn at school.”

Maloney had specific goals for the ceiling tile project and the placement of the pieces in a cancer treatment center.

“What we want to accomplish is to inspire folks who are going through difficult times in their lives and give them something happy and hopeful to look at.”

About 24 tiles will be completed by the end of this week.

Maloney’s seventh-grade students are working on a Valentine’s Day project with Gardners Elementary School’s entire student body. The students are developing lessons plans for art projects that will be carried out during an all-day field trip to Gardners on Feb. 12.

Art class students have been divided into groups and assigned to the different grades at Gardners with various art projects. Under the supervision of the Forest Hills students, some Gardners grades will make Valentine’s Day cards and art for troops overseas and patients in children’s hospitals. Older students in the elementary school will be completing art projects that will be given to the Gardners staff.

The seventh-grade art students have donated all the supplies needed for the Valentine’s project.

Maloney makes it her goal to never teach the same lesson twice with the same project idea.

“I’m always looking for new ideas,” Maloney said. “The basics that the students have to get are the elements of art and the basics of design. How I teach them that is up to me, so I can teach them using 100 different projects so they don’t ever have to learn the same things twice.”