Students Enjoy A ‘Day In Clay’


“Day in Clay”, an artist in residence cross-cultural program, recently made an appearance at Westbury High School to teach students the connection between the use of clay in cultures throughout history.

Artist-in-residence Cliff Mendelson
Artist-in-residence Cliff Mendelson

The two-day hands-on workshop took place inside the classroom of art teacher Dianne Costa, who teaches Ceramics and Sculptures I and II.

With the help of artist-in-residence Cliff Mendelson, students were able to create their own individual clay masks using the style and techniques found in Native American and African cultures. All of the students sculpted and molded their own masks using individual expression. No two masks looked the same.

As an artist-in-residence, Mendelson travels to different schools to teach various ceramic art programs to students. He also teaches art classes at Westchester Community College, Hunter College and Parsons The New School for Design.

The multicultural mask lesson was taught the same way that Mendelson teaches his college classes. “It moves along really quickly,” he explained. “Students really rise to the occasion and get challenged and make these great pieces in a short amount of time.”

Mendelson brought in masks he had previously created in order to show the students what the finished product would look like. The masks were three-dimensional and all different shapes, colors and sizes.

Costa’s classes have been working with clay since the fall. The classes have previously made projects with clay, such as teapots, but mask-making was not emphasized in the curriculum.

A student works on his mask
A student works on his mask

“I thought it would be really interesting to have them do a different aspect with a different teacher,” explained Costa.

The Day in Clay program took place over two days, with the first one focusing on the basics of how to form the mask and the second class emphasizing features and details. Although the students were not able to paint the masks before the end of the program, Mendelson gave a short painting demonstration before he left. In subsequent sessions, Costa assisted the students in applying paint to the masks.

The students were not only able to expand their creativity in learning new art techniques, but they also expanded their knowledge on creative arts in different parts of the world, making Day in Clay a balanced and well-rounded program filled with learning.

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