“I normally walk around and take in the sights and the sounds of a quiet school as everyone is preparing to see me,” said Trey Mock, the guy who plays Blue. “I saw all these amazing pieces of art. And honestly, my first reaction was, ‘Oh my goodness, this school commissioned an amazing artist to do all this.’”
What he found out stunned him even more.
“I was talking to the principal about all the art and he mentioned that most of these are done by second graders. And then he said, ‘We’ve had the same art teacher since the building opened. So for 17 years now, Mr. Lamie has been the art teacher and he guides the students on these projects.’”
Phil Lamie isn’t just any art teacher. He’s an artist himself.
“As a kid, we would camp a lot. My dad had this trailer on Lake Michigan and there was nothing to ever do there,” he said. “So, we would walk the beach and make stuff out of driftwood. We made macramé bracelets, whatever you could do on the beach.”
Today, he’s still creating. It’s a passion he shares with his elementary students. And a lot of the projects he does with them are collaborations.
“I guess you could say it’s Pointillism. It’s kind of a takeoff on that, really,” he said. “The Martin Luther King Jr. piece was the first one. We used our thumbprints. And then after I did that, I realized we could do this with larger groups of kids and a smaller dot. And that’s where we tried the Q-tips.”
They do a few every year – an endangered animal, a famous person, and a masterwork. Sometimes, they involve the whole school – the cooks, the janitors, everyone – and it’s a collaboration between the staff as well. Lamie picks a project, the music teacher finds a song to go with it, the librarian reads a book about it.
“That’s what collaboration is,” Lamie said, “everybody is moving for a common goal.”
Last Wednesday, Blue returned to the school for a special assembly.
“Boys and girls, it is a special day. And it’s a special day because it is our last day,” said Principal Tim Phares.
“Blue brings us a lot of excitement and a lot of joy and a lot of fun things in our community. He was here earlier this year giving us a nice talk about healthy living and decision-making and choices,” he said. “And here’s the cool thing, as he walked around our school, he was blown away by the artwork that you do. He just could not believe that our students were able to produce the artwork that they do under the direction of Mr. Lamie. So we said, ‘Hey, we’ve got an idea.’”
To cheers of delight, Blue appeared on stage, where the second graders presented him with their latest collaboration – a portrait of himself.
“It’s the first time we’ve done something other than a person or a specific art piece and we just felt like it was an opportunity to give back to something that’s given to us so much,” Phares said.
Clearly pleased, Blue thanked Dr. Phares, Mr. Lamie, and the students with hugs, handshakes, and head pats.
As he walked around afterwards admiring the other works of art, a familiar tune came from the assembly and filled the hallways. The music teacher was playing the piano while the students sang along.
“Back home again in Indiana
And it seems that I can see
The gleaming candlelight still shining bright
Through the sycamores for me…”
In some schools, art isn’t recognized as an essential part of an education. Towne Meadow Elementary isn’t one of those schools.
“It’s really important to us,” Lamie said. “We have a great school. We get a lot of support from our PTO. We have a really good music program. We’ve been a team together for quite a while.”
Like so many things, it comes down to teamwork. Whether it’s a football team or a teaching team, greatness starts with shared passion.
“When you’re passionate about what you do, kids see that,” said Assistant Principal Eric Valentine. “And that’s really what gets them more motivated than anything else.”
Art is in the eye of the beholder. And this is one piece of artwork Mock will cherish forever.
“Honestly, this is by far out of my 11 seasons as Blue, the coolest thing that I’ve ever received,” he said. “To know that all these students and Mr. Lamie, they all have their fingerprints all over this. It’s unbelievable, it really is.”
Teamwork makes dream work.
And sometimes, it makes a masterpiece.