A new sculpture outside Browns-town Central Middle School illustrates how the school does more than teach reading, writing and arithmetic.
Made of stainless steel, the 15-foot-tall structure features several different geometric shapes all connected with steel rods.
The work of art, created by students from Brownstown Central High School’s agriculture mechanics class, is named “Shaping Lives.” It’s located on the north side of the building in front of the side entrance along Walnut Street.
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On May 26, students and staff gathered around the sculpture for a dedication ceremony and to give credit and thanks to those who had a hand in its creation.
The ag mechanics class is taught by Blake Hackman, and students who participated on the sculpture team were Tyler Hafner, Zach Stark, Jeremy Brown, Zach Howell, Tanner Sutherland, Nathan Mann, Bailey Johnson, Nick Mauer, Tristin Bradford, Will Crockett, Alex Wheeler, Jordan Trowbridge and Travis Hall.
Crockett said he thought the sculpture turned out even better than what they expected it would.
“I think it’s great for a class to do projects like this because I feel like a lot of kids would rather do something hands-on rather than paperwork,” he said.
By working as a team, Crockett said each student played a role in creating the sculpture.
While bending pipes, he and his friend, Tanner Sutherland, would sing while they worked, Crockett said.
“It was a great project to be a part of, and the people you are working with motivate you,” he said. “They kept me working and in a good mood.”
It’s not the first time the class has been involved in such a project.
For years, Hackman’s students have been designing and constructing metal sculptures, which are displayed throughout the community, including one of oversized flowers, leaves and tendrils around the entrance sign to Southern Indiana Center for the Arts, “The Living Christ” at Immanuel Lutheran School and “David’s Tree” at Trinity Lutheran High School.
“After people found out that we had created three sculptures for the Seymour area, we were asked why we had not done any for Brownstown,” Hackman said. “The answer was simply we had not been asked.”
Last fall, the high school horticulture class spent some time landscaping at the middle school, and that’s when Brownstown Central Middle School Principal Doug McClure asked if Hackman could come up with something.
So together with his students, they started to brainstorm ideas.
“The concept took quite a few months to come up with,” Hackman said. “Ideas were stimulated by the question, ‘What is reminiscent of the middle school?’ Clubs, sports, textbooks, all sorts of ideas were shared, but one common idea kept coming up.”
That idea was a half-moon shape, which came from some of the windows in the building. Over the years, the window shape has become a logo for the middle school.
“From there, we came upon various shapes,” he said. “But how to incorporate that into a design that is pleasing to the eye and fit into the location.”
The group decided to build the structure upwards and use only 100 percent stainless steel.
Before construction, students made a miniature model of their concept out of paper, and then had to use lots of math to enlarge it to the size they wanted the sculpture to be.
Cardboard cutout patterns were placed on top of the steel sheets, and then a plasma cutter was used to cut out the pieces, Hackman said.
It was going to be too expensive to purchase new pipe to “skewer” the metal in order to connect the shapes, so they had to investigate other options, he said.
The students came upon old railings that had been from the balcony of the middle school and were removed during recent renovations. They worked perfect for the design, Hackman said.
When it came to naming the artwork, suggestions like “Cookie Cutters,” “Skewers” and “Shapes” were made. But it was Brenda Carothers, wife of Sheriff Michael Carothers, who made the winning suggestion.
“She was delivering flowers to the school greenhouse and said ‘Shaping Lives,’” Hackman said. “That stuck. Schools do shape lives. We hope that when people see this in the future, they will think about how the middle school has shaped their lives.”
McClure said the sculpture stands as a symbol and reminder that everyone has value.
“Each of us matter. We were, and are, created for significance,” he said. “And that our entire purpose as a school is to support, educate, enrich and shape lives.”
He hopes when people see or talk about the sculpture, they are made aware of their own responsibility in shaping their lives and the lives of others.
“Although our lives may take different paths, our futures uniquely shaped in accordance with our choices and abilities, we remain interconnected in our human condition,” he said.
Superintendent Greg Walker said the sculpture is fitting for the location.
“It is my belief that there is no time in a student’s life more important in shaping their lives than middle school,” he said. “They enter as 11-year-olds full of curiosity and leave as teenagers eager to take on the challenges of high school.
“This sculpture is a very appropriate addition to the BCMS campus, as so much occurs during that short three years toward molding our students for future successes,” Walker added.
In dedicating the artwork, McClure said the one thing that remains constant at the school is the work done there to develop and inspire, through learning, the lives of students.
“It is upraised in recognition of those who have come before for their devotion to the mission and posterity of our school,” he said. “In equal measure, this sculpture stands to signify the commitment of those present, and in the future, to that enduring mission.”