At the June Board of Education Meeting, Tecumseh Public Schools accepted just over $20,000 in grants and donations for continued development of the Sculpture Garden at the High School.
The district received $10,000 from the Stubnitz Foundation; $10,000 from the Elizabeth Ruthruff Wilson Foundation and a $1,500 private donation for memorial trees for the space. Thanks to these generous gifts, construction on an outdoor stage, sidewalks, retaining walls and landscaping will begin this summer.
For THS Art Facilitator Christine Obeid, this is a long time coming.
In 2014, Obeid began planning for the space. She wanted to turn the unused space outside the art classrooms into an outdoor learning space that would feature a sculpture donated by Tom Rudd. She tapped into the creativity of her students who went to work on their own plans for the area, sketching ideas that included everything from an outdoor performance space to a roller coaster and a skate park.
Learners further refined their designs after meeting with landscape and building architects, who later combined their ideas into final blueprints for a multi-purpose sculpture garden.
The centerpiece of the sculpture garden is an outdoor stage with tiers of landscaped seating.
“The students were very passionate about the arts and did not want to limit the space to just the fine arts,” said Obeid. “From the beginning they were insistent about having a place to perform, an outdoor stage.”
The plans include a walking path surrounding the stage, locations for several future sculptures and a variety of trees and plants, with a final estimated cost for the project coming in at $190,000.
With the hefty price tag and limited resources the project stalled. But the sculpture garden was never far from Obeid’s thoughts, and in the last year began applying for grant funding.
“I’m so grateful for these early contributors to the project,” Obeid said. “I am hopeful that we will start to see momentum build with more grant funding and private donations to support the space.”
Following the initial work on the space this summer, Obeid intends to begin using the space when classes begin this fall. She envisions the space becoming a resource for almost all learners at the high school, as well as the community.
“Music and English classes can use the stage for class presentations and performances and science classes can use the space to study nature. Even the life skills class can use a portion of the sculpture garden to plant herbs and maintain a garden.” said Obeid. “I could see local photographers and artists visiting, or poetry slams and one act plays being held on the stage - we want this space to be an open resource for everyone.”
Community organizations are already committing to add to the space. The Macon Garden Club has volunteered to plant and maintain a butterfly garden on part of the site.
The garden is home to only one sculpture, the untitled work from Tom Rudd installed last school year. The piece is a stop on Art Trail Tecumseh, a free self-guided tour supported by the Midwest Sculpture Initiative, the Downtown Development Authority and the Sage Foundation.
THS art facilitator Jackie Whiteley plans fill the space with a collaborative sculpture created by her learners each year. Additionally, Obeid asks the local arts community to submit sculptures to be considered for display in the garden.
Those wishing to donate a sculpture, make a financial contribution, or support the placement of a tree in honor or memory of a loved one may email Christine Obeid or call 517-423-6008.