We were thrilled to share our progress with parents and community members at the Granite Gallery. Our thanks to owners Alexa and Jerry Cunningham who opened their space for us to invite family, friends and community members to see our project.
What could be better than a welcome into the gallery, moving along our display of beautiful art, taking in their arrangement swimming upstream until you were brought to a view out the window of Ripley Creek at high tide where our alewives once returned in abundance each spring?
Students came down in two groups to help arrange the display and get a sense of the evening opening.
Families, friends and community members stopped by to see, learn and show their support of our students and their undertaking for which we are grateful. For one evening, the alewives made a run up Ripley Creek once more!
Our fish are being fired and as batches come out of the kiln they are being sealed with a coat of acrylic gesso! In between creating the fish and preparing them for final painting is our time to dig into the history of the run: What was it like in our community when the fish came in? Why did we lose our run? What has been done to try and restore them?
The research of 8th grade alumni in the form of text, audio and video files is now becoming brief narratives within a laser-cut alewife silhouette that will be displayed near our sculpted alewives, artfully arranged as if they were swimming up Ripley Creek once more. As one reads the texts, a story emerges that shares the local history of the alewives and answers our essential questions.
To distill an abundance of information into such brevity while keeping essential details is a very challenging task! Students usually opted to work in pairs to create a draft, and then passed the draft along for “warm” and “cool” feedback. Edits and more edits were made with the ideal of using very few characters to create easy reading and provide impactful meaning.
Even this prototype laser-cut narrative has too much text!! An edit is underway!
Next, we are eager to get under way painting our fish to bring them to life and prepare for a preview of our project installation at the Granite Gallery. Our many thanks to Granite Gallery owners Alexa and Jerry Cunningham! The gallery preview will be held Friday, May 20th, from 5-7 pm. Come see and support this project of our students that has challenged them to use art as a connection to our natural resources, local history and stewardship and why we should remember the alewives, always!
After four clay workshops this week, we have an incredible school of sculpted alewives! We found it both challenging and engaging to create their unique classic shape, both in profile and in how they taper to a thin wedge to match the “old timer’s” nickname for them, “sawbellies”. It took patience, attention to detail and a sense of pride which all show in their finished forms!Clay artist Randy Fein coached our techniques to help us bring the clay to life. Students started with a wedge of clay that resembled a literal clay brick. We slammed the clay, a technique that gradually flattens the thickness so we could then put our templates of the fish on top. Next, we cut outlines and started some basic shaping; rounding the back and starting to bring the belly to a compressed V-shape. As we shaped, we used our templates several times to cut back to the overall length and depth we were aiming for. To let them set with a curve in their body as if they were swimming, we created this artistic touch by laying them over folded thicknesses of towels or over a sponge. We also piloted holes needed for hardware involved in hanging them later on and added their large eyes. Tails were textured and cut into their characteristic fork. The next day they were of a firmness known as leather-hard. Carving tools could then be used to shave away clay to further round the backs of the fish or remove any excess thickness along the belly. We then worked in the absolute final details, like smoothing the sides, or adding scale texture and generally double-checking the fish were completed to their maker’s satisfaction and ready to dry over the next ten days before firing!
In the next phase of our project while our fish dry and become fired in the kiln, we are looking ahead to digging in deeper about the history surrounding our run and the factors that present such a challenge to their return. With this information students will be creating brief narratives in representing each of the two to three fish that they’ve made that will tell the story of our once abundant Tenants Harbor alewives.
Thank goodness for helping hands!!
Imagine alewives, swimming their way up Ripley Creek into the marsh to spawn, yet you’re viewing these forms as a dynamic sculptural mobile suspended above you, their bright shining bellies and dark backs glinting with hints of metallic iridescence. Nearby, you find an individual fish silhouette on the wall and read text that highlights a featured fact or story from the community about these fish that were once so plentiful here locally. The fish, taken together, represent a significant body of student work documenting this resource and its community connections.
On Thursday, April 7th, we began an ambitious art and service project to document the cultural and natural history of our alewife run. We want to commemorate our run so we don’t forget their history in our community, and the varied reasons that they have all but disappeared here in our marsh.
We are excited to be working with clay artist Ms. Randy Fein. Our start involved an introduction to alewives themselves, thanks to the generosity of Gerry Cushman who donated frozen fish so we could sketch them in order to get familiar with alewife anatomy and form. We also created realistic templates for our work in clay by drawing the fishes’ form on cardboard. They were later cut out by bandsaw.
Students also split into smaller groups and viewed the area where our sculptural fish will be suspended, sharing their ideas about arranging the fish, creating visual movement as well as giving thought to various constraints of the space. Artist Charles Duvall of Duvall Designs will be joining us later in the project to create this framework that the fish will be suspended from.
We are indebted to Georges River Education Foundation, the Perloff Foundation and the St. George School Fund for making this collaborative project possible.
Meeting Clay Artist Randy Fein
Gwen, Sophia and Willow are measuring dimensions of our ladder in order to calculate the volume of water flowing through its length
The rainy and cool spring has increased the water levels spilling over the dam and we wondered, could alewives swim up the current in the ladder? We found we make some measurements and calculations and compare the flow rate to that of published research about alewife swimming speeds.
Contributed by Lydia Myers, Gwen Miller, Mya Simmons
On Friday May 31st at 11:28 am our eighth grade class went down to the marsh to calculate the water velocity in our newly placed fish ladder. It was important for us to do this to determine whether or not our alewives could make it from the many pools up into the marsh through the strong current in the ladder.
The first thing we did as always, was sneak up onto the culvert to check for returning alewives. When it was determined that none were spotted, we continued on to the ladder to calculate the velocity.
The first thing we did was to take a yardstick and measure the depth of the ladder, then the width, and finally the length. The few that gathered the data then reported it to those that were recording. The final measurement needed was the speed of the flow, or how fast the water was traveling in the ladder. To gather this information we used a tennis ball and cut a small slit into it. We then filled the ball with water approximately halfway so that we would get an accurate measurement. Our next step was to send the ball down the ladder, starting farther into the marsh so that it was accurate, and time until it reached the end.
Using this data and a sheet provided to us we calculated that the water velocity of our fish ladder is 26.52 centimeters per second. Using a published study we discovered that greater than 92% of alewives can swim through this current we have created for the length we have assessed (five feet).
Our “calculators”, Lydia and Maggie