Local and nationally known artist Franz Spohn has donated his time to create this candy mural exclusively for McKean Elementary School. The portrait at McKean Elementary will be one of only four Spohn portraits with the candy pearls to date. Spohn will be giving a presentation to kickoff the event on May 21st at 2 p.m. Following the presentation, the students will put together the mural based on Spohn’s guide.
Spohn designs a pixilated version of the General through his computer and then makes a map showing where each color of the candy pearls goes. Each student at McKean Elementary will then follow the map and stack the colored candy into clear plastic tubes accordingly. The 156 4-inch tubes are then mounted next to each other to form the unique portrait. McKean PTA has offered to pay for the supplies.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to work together as a community to create a unique work of art,” said Christina Martin, an elementary art teacher for the District. “The wonderful thing about a community-oriented project is when students get to work together to create a work of art, they feel a great sense of pride. This is an amazing opportunity that we get to bring to our students.”
Spohn, a professor at Edinboro University in the printmaking department, is a nationally known artist who is quite famous for creating wall murals using gumballs. His gumball portraits of President Obama, Michael Jackson, Robert Ripley and Dean Cain have been featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Museums worldwide.
Spohn previously completed full-size gumball muralz for the Neason Hill Elementary School in Meadville and for the Erie Children's Museum for First Night Erie about 16 years ago.
Spohn was originally involved with making mosaics out of cupcake sprinkles and jimmies, but he created the gumball murals when he was asked to devise a project for kids using candy as an art material for the Pittsburgh Children's Museum.
“When asked the difference between working with gum or marbles my immediate answer was a gumball doesn't hurt when you step on it in your stocking feet (they are soft and hollow) but a marble does,” Spohn said. “And when I am in full production in my studio there are plenty of round objects that fall on the floor and are rolling around.”
Spohn switched from gumballs to candy pearls in order to scale the murals down to accommodate more venues who don’t have the space or costs for a 6 x 6 mural – the cost of materials is less for the candy pearls than the gumball murals.
“I am happy to work with what is available, [it’s] part of the challenge,” Spohn said.
Spohn has also done projects for Major League Baseball, Target, Heart of America, and many science, children's and art museums including a mural made of gobstoppers for the National Science Museum in London, England. About 20 years ago, Spohn was host and co-producer of the PBS instructional video series Eureka! the Creative Art Series.
McKean’s portrait will be of General John McLane, the commander of the 83rd Pennsylvania Regiment who was killed on June 27, 1862, at the Battle of Gaines' Mill during the Virginia Peninsula Campaign. General McLane High School was erected in 1960 and named after McLane, who was at that time still a colonel. The title of general posthumously conferred upon him April 4,1961, when the General Assembly of the State Legislature promoted to brigadier general.
This attention to the arts is just one component of the McLane Advantage. General McLane School District serves students in kindergarten through twelfth grade in Franklin, McKean and Washington Townships, as well as the borough of McKean and Edinboro. The District also serves tuition students throughout Erie County. The high school was built in 1960 after Colonel John W. McLane of Erie. The District remains the only school district to be named after a person and not a location.
To learn more about General McLane School District, visit http://generalmclane.org.
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