Fallston High School mobile project

Freshly painted pieces for mobiles at Fallston High School dry in one of the art rooms at the school. (MATT BUTTON, Aegis staff / March 19, 2013)

Earlier this week, two weeks of work by Fallston High School art students were installed at the entrance to the school's library.

About 75 students designed and fabricated three massive mobiles under the direction of art educator Andrea Sauer and resident artist Kevin Reese of Washington, D.C.

The mobiles were dedicated at the school at 2:30 p.m. Monday. Parents were invited to attend and meet Reese, a "kinetic artist" who has been working on collaborative art projects with schools since 2001.

The mobiles can be seen in schools and libraries in 24 states, as well as in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei.

Last year, Reese worked with second-, third- and fourth-graders at Emmorton Elementary School to design and build a mobile to hang in that school's lobby – Sauer, who has a child at Emmorton, worked with Reese on the project as a parent volunteer.

"[I] thought he was just the best resident artist that I've ever worked with," said Sauer, who has about 12 years of experience teaching in Howard County and California schools, and is in her first year at Fallston.

The three Fallston mobiles measure 12 to 13 feet from top to bottom and about 18 to 20 feet from side to side. Each mobile is inspired by the works of Spanish artist Joan Miro, who used many small shapes to make bigger creations in his paintings, and his early 20th-century contemporary, American sculptor Alexander Calder.

Calder became famous for his "kinetic" works, including mobiles.

The students, who are in Sauer's Advanced Painting, 3-D and Drawing and Painting classes, brainstormed their design ideas based on shapes, and submitted their rough sketches to Reese.

"There were so many different shapes, it was easy to pull then out and make them your own," 18-year-old senior Jessica Tress said during a recent interview.

Tress and two of her fellow students, 18-year-old senior Zef Zulty and 16-year-old sophomore Eamon Shifflet, spoke to The Aegis last week in Sauer's classroom at Fallston.

Tress said the design process was "very open ended."

"He just kind of let us go loose," she said of Reese.

Reese then took the students' designs and created models of the mobiles.

"He created something that incorporated a little bit of everything," Shifflet said.

Sauer and Reese said the model was not meant to be a strict guide for the mobiles, and the final product will look significantly different as the students incorporated a variety of their ideas as the project continued.

"The ownership of the mobiles is really the students'," Sauer said. "We've ended up with these three mobiles that the students really have taken the whole way through the process."

Reese said the students have "been terrific to work with."

"The models that we showed them were more inspiration to continue creating," he explained. "The students took major artistic license, and it's really, really exciting."

Foam core has been used as a base material for the mobiles, and the students have cut, sanded and painted the foam core shapes before attaching them to the mobile frame.

"Something about the sanding is really soothing," Zulty said. "It's kind of like a Zen process for me."

The students also noted how other academic disciplines, such as math and science, have been incorporated into the project – the students must design the mobiles so they are properly balanced and can catch air currents to move.

Sauer praised Reese for his efforts to weave math and science lessons in, to show the real-world application of concepts such as fulcrums and balance points.

"They're learning the art and the math and the science, all the things that go with it," she said.

Sauer also thanked the members of the school's Parent-Teacher Association for their efforts to raise money to support the project, and the Harford County Public Schools facilities staffers who installed the mobiles.

"They've been really receptive to this whole project and excited by it, and have figured out the logistics of where it's going to hang and how it's going to be safe," she said.