2013-10-31 / Local & State

At Mercersburg School, Natural Art Takes Scope

By Amber South



MERCERSBURG, Pa. (AP) – Did nature make that?

If you walk along the paths behind Charles Brightbill Environmental Education Center, Mercersburg, over the next few weeks, you will probably ask yourself that question. Arrangements among the trees and brush may catch your eye - even though they are of the same materials as the environment around them, they seem more uncommon.

There are about 30 pieces of art nestled along approximately one mile of trails. They were created by students in four sculpture classes at James Buchanan High School, Mercersburg, led by this year’s artist-in-residence, Aaron Treher.

Part of the goal of the project is to build awareness of the Tuscarora Wildlife Education Project, which calls the Brightbill Center home, Treher said.

Andy Goldsworthy, a British site-installation artist who uses the environment to build his pieces, is an example of inspiration Treher offered the students.

Students were challenged to make a piece of art that in some way reflects nature and that is composed only of items found in nature. The only other materials they could use were clippers provided to them, Treher said.

“It’s a way for them to reflect on the importance of what nature is, what it means for them, and to creatively think about it and appreciate it, and also give them a new experience of art making,” he said.

After they sketched out their ideas, Treher took the students through the trails and instructed them to find the spot they wanted to use. Some students’ ideas changed based on the environment they found, Treher said.

They spent class time using natural elements to build their projects. All that is left now is to place information cards at each, which Treher said he was planning to do Wednesday.

Some of the projects are based on objects in the real world while others are abstract shapes from their imaginations, Treher said.

There is a bridge made of heavy branches over a small stream. Down the path you will find sticks and rocks arranged in shapes on the ground. Across the path there is a small canoe made of light- colored sticks. A small log cabin, made of sticks instead of logs, stands near the end of the trails.

Near the middle of the tour is one of the larger art works, which somewhat resembles a shelter someone could use in the woods. Creator Derek Embly called it a “half tee-pee.”

He finished the abstract piece in four hours on a single day. He had sketched out what was in his mind, but once he got to his space he “went with the flow” to use the available elements of nature into a piece of art.

“The tree I used was Yshaped, so it worked out good. The trees were close together so I could make the branches into one piece,” he said.

Embly, a senior, said he is good at creating sculptures, and enjoys having someone who is experienced in the real world of art as his instructor.

Treher said he was “really happy” to be chosen for the program, especially since the application process was competitive. Anita Shively, art department chair, said he was chosen out of 18 others because he “lives his life as an artist.”

“He came to us with such a wealth of knowledge and experiences, particularly for his age. It’s very impressive. He is out there, getting involved in everything,” she said.

Treher has two upcoming shows in bigger cities in the region, including Pittsburgh.

But for right now, he is preparing the next generation of artists. Projects like this one demonstrate to students that art can be nontraditional - a segment that is becoming a big part of the art world, Treher said.

He has another big goal, too.

“Part of this is to help the community be aware of (TWEP). So by me having students come out here and work, it’s raising awareness and interest in the project,” Treher said.

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