by Kate Evans
Warm Springs Intermediate School art classes under the direction of art teacher Anna Ruggiero created a stunning art mural on the exterior wall of the Ice House that faces Hunter’s Hardware in downtown Berkeley Springs.
Ruggiero said that the project came about when artist Lynn Lavin asked if she’d be interested in beautifying one of the empty cement spaces on the Ice House.
“I loved the idea of getting students involved in a community artwork, so I coordinated with the Morgan Arts Council (MAC) and Summer Goller who runs the MC After 3 program to purchase supplies and start a weekly art class after school,” Ruggiero said.
The design of the art mural is based on Alma Woodsey Thomas’ “Apollo 12 Splashdown,” one of a series of abstract space-themed paintings that Thomas created that was inspired by the 1969 moon landing, Ruggiero said.
“Students learned about her life and works, and the connection art has to the time and place in which it’s created. Students worked through the art critique steps, and when it came to ‘interpretation’ most agreed that the bright colors made them feel happy and that it reminded them of a mountain sunset they might see here in Morgan County,” she noted.
Ruggiero said that students used a 2 x 4 template to cut tiles from a slab of clay. They created designs and texture on the tiles with stamping and etching and drew pictures and patterns that were special to them and that made them happy.
“The tiles were bisque fired and students glazed them to match the colors of the bright blazes in the painting. Students sorted tiles and laid them out on the floor by looking at the number and order of the colors in each row,” Ruggiero said.
While the art mural began as an MC After 3 project, Ruggiero opened it up to all of her art classes as the end of last school year neared. Each student was able to make a few tiles. She said that there were 15 classes involved that spanned third to fifth grades. The tiles were organized and installed at the Ice House by Ruggiero and T.J. Enderlein.
African-American artist and teacher Alma Woodsey Thomas was born in Columbus, Georgia and moved with her family to Washington, D.C. in 1907 to escape racial violence. Thomas got her teaching degree and then graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree.
After Thomas retired from teaching art in the Washington D.C. public school system for 34 years, she pursued an art career creating colorful, expressionistic abstract paintings. Thomas is considered a major painter of the 20th Century.