Lincoln Art Students Sculpting Excellence and Inspiration

May 17, 2017, 6:45 a.m. ·

Sculpture of student portraits at Lincoln High School. (Photo courtesy of Yvonne Meyer)

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A group of Lincoln High School students and their teacher hope a new sculpture that combines photography, writing and some basic engineering will do more than just fill up an empty space. They’re hoping the piece also helps bring a very diverse campus together in an unusual way.

With her sixth period art students gathered around, teacher Yvonne Meyer knows there’s work to do. There isn’t much time before the end of the school year and she wants to finish what’s called “The Excellence Project” before her class goes home for the summer. All around her are large, plywood circles, parts of a nine-foot tall, 50-foot long modular sculpture.

“The original inspiration came off of a tortilla sculpture that I saw online,” Meyer said. “This is much bigger than that. The circles are four foot diameter, 3/4 inch plywood circles. They have portraits attached to them that are about four feet tall and three feet wide.”

Lincoln High School art teacher Yvonne Meyer (Photo by Jack Williams, NET News)

Last fall, 170 students at Lincoln High School were nominated to be a part of the sculpture. Out of that group, 50 were chosen based on their backgrounds and unique stories. Sophomore Anna Almeida was one of them.

“I’m from Brazil and when I came here I discovered that this school has a lot of people from different countries and they have a lot of stories and they want to be heard,” Almeida said. “That’s the point of the project I think. We want to be heard and we want to show that we have interesting stories to tell.”

Joshua Leavell is a senior at Lincoln High and is also a photographer. He helped take the pictures for the sculpture and a book of photography and creative writing the students are producing. He thinks the project is about telling the unique stories of students who aren’t usually in the spotlight.

“All these 50 people have this fire inside them to do the best they can do and a lot of the people that have that aren’t popular,” Leavell said. “A lot of them are just under the radar. I lot of the people here have a lot of contributing to do and they do it, but it’s not recognized, so this it to pick out the diamond in the rough almost.”

Art students work on the sculpture project at Lincoln High School. (Photo by Jack Williams, NET News)

Students like senior Paulo Gross didn’t know what to expect when they started the project. He was thrown into a photographer’s role without much experience. Now, he’s one of the leaders on a project that’s changed his perspective.

“It’s definitely given me an experience that I never thought I’d have in my life,” Gross said. “I’ve never thought of myself as very creative with things physically. I’ve never drawn, and so getting into photography and being part of this project has opened my eyes to a whole different thing that I never thought I’d be good at or pursue.”

Sophomore Trista Williams isn’t sure why she was nominated, but is happy to be a part of the sculpture. She’s glad to know she and others are noticed.

“I think it was about seeing each other in the community and realizing the people that we have around us and appreciating everyone we have around us and showing someone that you know who they are and they stand out to you in some way,” Williams said.

Teacher Yvonne Meyer has her hands in a little bit of everything, from looking at potential photos for the book project to trying to figure out how to move and set-up a stack of plywood circles.

Art class at Lincoln High School. (Photo by Jack Williams, NET News)

“Some people are in the class because they had a choice between welding and photo 2,” Meyer said. "They didn’t know that they were going to be creating several books, a sculpture, their own individual work, all of that in three and half months. It’s a pretty ambitious pace.”

She says the sculpture project has been much more than just about something to fill time in art class. She wants to tell everyone the story of her student’s persistence and excellence as a way to unify and highlight different perspectives. In a school with more than 2,000 students, that isn’t easy.

“I get to see that every day, what students can do, what youth can do and I wanted to get that story sort of out of this community and into the larger community, just what’s possible, because it’s inspiring to me,” Meyer said.

The sculpture will eventually travel, including stops at the Lincoln Arts Festival, The Mayor’s Arts Awards and TEDx Lincoln. It’s a journey Meyer hopes will highlight remarkable students with inspiring stories.