ILES Artist In Residence Wetland Project Update

ILES Artist in Residence Wetland Project Update
Posted on 04/08/2022
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Ohio Arts CouncilWetland Books

Some very special books are coming home with ILES and ILMS students! 

As the Indian Lake Elementary School Wetland Art Project is nearing completion, ILES Art Teacher Terry Nelson is handing out the recently delivered “Wild About Our Wetlands” alliterative alphabet books during art classes this week. The books feature the clay letters on panels that students created with visiting polymer clay artist Melissa Terlizzi which highlight all the flora and fauna that can be found in the wetland behind ILES. Each letter is accompanied by an alliterative paragraph describing the plants, animals and insects and fun facts written by Mrs. Honaker’s current third and fourth grade language arts students and those students from two years ago. Every page also has a QR code to direct readers to even more information about the wetland creatures. Students in Ryan Stanford’s graphic design classes at Indian Lake High School laid out the pages of the book and submitted it for publication. 

Nelson said, “I really love that the high school students could be involved by preparing the pages for publication. They worked hard and Mr. Stanford showed great commitment for the project as well. I have heard a lot of compliments on how great both the display and book have turned out.”


Current 6th grader Chloe Borgerding worked on the clay portion of the project as a 4th grader. She is excited to see her elm leaves and katydids which are part of the letters “E” and “K” in the book. Borgerding said, “I really enjoy nature and the outdoors, along with art and this project combined the two. It was really fun to learn about all the plants and animals and make some of them.” 

Current 4th grader Brady Jackson’s monarch caterpillar is featured on the letter “M.”Jackson says working on the project as a second grader taught him a lot about the life cycle of insects. “Like, I didn’t know that the monarch caterpillar was black and yellow striped. Then, when it turns into a butterfly, it’s orange and black.” 

All students in grades 2-4 at ILES and grades 5-6 at ILMS will get a free copy of the book. Generous donations from the Logan County Electric Cooperative and Gathering Grounds Coffee paid for the publishing. The ILES PTO also supported the project, so that ILES students in kindergarten and first grade could order a copy at a reduced cost.

The books are just one part of the multi-faceted project made possible through a teaching grant from the Ohio Arts Council. Mrs. Nelson received the grant in 2019. Terlizzi began working with students of every grade level in ILES art classes on the project throughout the fall and winter of that school year. Classes studied the plants and animals found in the nearby wetlands. Then they worked with Nelson and Terlizzi to design, cut, mold and create the life forms out of polymer clay. 

The clay portion was nearing completion when the Covid-19 school closure shut down the project. Since then, Nelson and Terlizzi worked to finish all the letter panels, while ILHS students completed the books.

“I think the big take-away for me throughout the project has been how lucky we all are to be part of a school that can collaborate to accomplish big things. Administrators, teachers, custodians, and students across many grade levels all put in time and effort that has made this a fun, educational, and BEAUTIFUL art installation that will be enjoyed for years to come,” Nelson continues, “The collaboration extends to the larger community as well, thanks to our sponsors! It makes me Laker proud!”


Now, the letters are mounted in a new display just outside the ILES Art Room. Nelson worked with Rick Fuller of Framing by Fuller to design the wall system which houses the panels. The project is now open to the public during school hours.

Wetland Book ProductionWetland Book ProductionWetland Book Production

The ILES Artist In Residence Wetland Alphabet Art Installation and Book project is in the final stages! 
Over the summer, each letter of the wetland alphabet that the ILES art students helped make was photographed. ILHS students in Mr. Stanford's Graphic Design II class are currently working on the layout of the book. Each letter will have its own page with alliterative text written by ILES gifted language arts students. Also, each page will have a QR code that will take readers to additional information about the flora and fauna featured on each letter.  
Over the past two school years, Mrs. Nelson's art classes at ILES have been studying the wetland on campus. With the assistance of polymer clay artist Melissa Terlizzi, the students created clay creatures and plant life of the organisms that make the ILES wetland their home. The centerpiece of their study is the Alphabet Wall which will feature each letter of the alphabet displayed with corresponding plants and animals. 

Nelson hopes to be able to hold a reveal party open house for the public to debut the art installation, tour the wetland and receive a copy of the book. The target timeline is the fall of 2021. Terlizzi plans to return to Ohio once again for the final event. 

 Her work was sponsored by a grant from the Ohio Arts Council. 

Artist in ResidenceArtist in ResidenceArtist in ResidenceOhio Arts Council
After a year’s hiatus, the Indian Lake Elementary School Artist in Residence is back to school to complete her assignment. 

Polymer clay artist Melissa Terlizzi is spending a few days working with ILES Art Teacher Terry Nelson and several students. They are putting the final touches on the ILES Wetland Alphabet Project that began during the 2019-20 school year with financial assistance from an Ohio Arts Council grant. 

More than two dozen highly detailed works of art were about 75-percent complete in March of 2020, when Ohio Governor Mike DeWine ordered schools closed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

At that time, Terlizzi took all the different components of the extensive polymer clay project home to Virginia to assemble and bake. Now she is back to work with small groups of ILES students in each grade level to finish the job. 

Terlizzi said, “Some of the older kids just knock it out of the park, they are really talented and super dedicated to it. We had a boy here this morning looking up on the internet to make sure he has his spots right on his newt. They are very good at this and it’s a really nice mix of science and art.”

The ILES Wetland Alphabet Project is the dream of art teacher Terry Nelson. For many years she wanted to create a cross-curricular art project that would celebrate the many plants and animals living in the wetland just behind ILES—which you can see from the art room windows. In the early stages of the project, students in their science classes researched the reptiles, mammals, birds, berries, trees, insects and more that make the on-campus ecosystem their home. In addition, gifted language art students used alliteration techniques to write about the creatures. In art class, they tied the lessons together as each grade level used polymer clay to create the creatures and plant-life in 3-D as their own art projects. Finally, Nelson and Terlizzi chose some special students to assist in shaping the alphabet letters that will make up the signature art installation. 

Nelson explains, “We couldn’t have the whole class work on the alphabet letters, but we had our best artists, our art honors students, work on the alphabet. They all had a little part of each letter designated for them to help make and we’re catching up on all that now.”

Terlizzi adds, “So we have roughly ten letters completely done and then there might be a bug or two to add, but we still have heaps and heaps to do!”

When complete, the ILES Wetland Alphabet wall will be displayed just outside the art room. It will consist of 26 panels, each with a letter of the alphabet decorated with polymer clay flora and fauna of the same letter. For example, the letter E features an eagle, earthworms, elderberries and elm leaves. In addition, each letter panel will be photographed and digitized to become a page in the “ILES Wetland Alphabet Book” that Indian Lake High School graphic design students help create. 

This fall Nelson hopes to be able to hold a reveal party open house for the public to debut the art installation, tour the wetland and receive a copy of the book. Terlizzi plans to return to Ohio once again for the final event.