“Stand on your Art!” This was not a common phrase until this week at JL Mann. Art and religion have coexisted since the Middle Ages. Paintings such as Raphael’s angels from his Sistine Madonna, Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel, and Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper are cultural icons of our society. Popes, presidents, kings, and the common man supported the arts for many centuries.
Fast forward to 2008 and the support between artists and the public is being challenged. JL Mann’s Timeline Project has been in production for over four years since 2004. The idea stemmed from a timeline walk in Doncaster, England, discovered by Coach Cook and Mr. Garner on one of their many Study Abroad trips. The timeline walk was a showcase of the town’s history and culture embedded in its downtown sidewalks. Having seen the timeline in Doncaster, Coach Cook and Mr. Garner decided to bring home this idea as a way to commemorate the old JL Mann at the new JL Mann.
In the early stages of the project, students, teachers, parents, and the Mann community picked out both local and global historical events to be put on stones that were to be placed on the walkway of the New Mann. As they were being finished these timeline stones were displayed in the Old Mann Media Center so that people could see them before they were moved and placed at the new school. They were also displayed on the school website and still are. At that time people could decide which stones to keep and which stones to take off the Timeline Project, or which stones might need to be modified or redone. The plan was that once the tiles were in the walkway, the project would be “set in stone.”
After the dedication of the new school, a few concerned parents had issues with the new walkway, even though over the previous four years they had a chance to speak their minds before all of the tiles were laid down yet said nothing. They indicated that it was against their religion to step on symbols that they felt represented their beliefs. So four years ago, could they not have spoken up about the Timeline Project before it was completed? This is absolutely disgraceful. The parents, students, teachers, and community have had four years to speak up about the stones that they did not want placed on the Timeline if they felt it disrespected their religions before these stones were cemented in place. Flyers were sent home throughout the last four years and there were numerous email newsletters informing parents and the community about the project. And yet, no responses until now.
Members of this community, parents, students, and teachers have spent long dedicated hours, weeks, months, school breaks, and summers – over the years working on this endearing project. If anyone has a problem with it at this point, it is too late. Everyone had four years to speak their mind about the project content and designs. If you did not, then it is your problem for not doing so. The Art Club among others has done an excellent job in trying new, innovative and interesting ways to showcase our school, its history, and its artistic talents. It would be unfortunate if this time around their efforts have gone to waste; removing the stones would leave a dark patch on our school’s character and strong foundations. We should not, in any way, succumb to this bullying. It gets no one anywhere.
Keep the stones of history in place for future generations of students at Mann. People will want to walk on that Timeline a hundred years from now knowing that we did the right thing by keeping them in place. If we tear them all out, what would be left of this long painstaking project? Absolutely nothing and a lost vision of the New JL Mann and what it stands for. Let us be proud of our school and what it has accomplished through this Timeline. There is talk about taking out a few particular stones. It’s a shame to come to this, but there could be some compromise; if we have to take out one or two stones, OK. But not every single stone. One or two is fine; 136 are too many. A good stone to replace a lost theme should be on Spirit Week because that is one event that binds us together as a school and community.
So “Stand on your Art,” Mann, and believe in what you stand for. Hard work and dedication should be rewarded. As it was in the past for the great artists to showcase their ideas in their own ways, Mann is doing its own way of showing our history in the most innovative and enlightening way that it can.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
JL Mann Walking Path Flops With Some ParentsBy Ron Barnett • STAFF WRITER • April 22, 2008
Responding to complaints from parents, the principal of J.L. Mann High School has decided to rip 136 stepping stones from a brick walkway in front of the new school because some of the stones depict symbols that are sacred to some members of the community.
And stepping on somebody’s sacred symbols can be offensive, said Principal Susan Hughes, who is seeking a compromise to move the artwork and display it.
The stones, part of a Timeline Walk, were designed and crafted by students to cover historic events ranging in seriousness from the publication of the first Batman comic book in 1939 to the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima in 1945.
But the Walk of History, as the display is also called, also includes religious symbols tied to events in history -- a Muslim mosque and crescent, a Bible, a Star of David.
And political symbols that are held in reverence by many, in particular the American flag.
"Certainly we did not want to offend anyone but wanted to display the artistic talents of our students," Hughes said.
Other parents have taken to the defense of the artwork, which was done as part of a four-year project to raise money to commission a life-sized bronze statue of the school’s mascot, the Patriot, she said.
Hughes is trying to find a compromise.
"We wanted to work out a solution that would balance those concerns while retaining the students’ creative expressions of historical events," she said. It’s not the symbols themselves that have been objected to, but the fact that they were being walked on, she said.
She is working with district officials to come up with a way to move the artwork and display it in such a way that it can’t be stepped on.
Students tromped along the walkway Monday afternoon on their way into the building, mostly without taking notice of the stones.
"I can see where people are coming from when they get offended, like the Islam or something about stepping on the symbol," said Abbie Holliday, a senior at the school. "I didn’t think anything was wrong with it, but I can see where it offends some people."
The walkway starts at 2800 BC with Stonehenge and proceeds through world, American and local history -- which by nature is riddled with controversy.
Among images of the world’s great religions and historical events are such potentially controversial images as Robert E. Lee, "A Southern hero," astride his white horse with a Confederate battle flag in the background.
Then there’s Martin Luther King, and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis.
Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species is illustrated with the famous succession of walking mammals from monkey-like beings to man.
One stone celebrates the school’s 1982 state championship in basketball. Others depict the first video game in 1975, the creation of the Fender electric guitar in 1946 and "the Intimidator," Dale Earnhardt.
You could even walk on a stone that commemorates the founding of The Greenville News in 1874.
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