Projects- FABG and District - Scroll down and see a selection of past activites - Contact us with your project

Photo: Lauren Comly

Watershed Wall - A District Collaborative Public Art Project

is a clay tile mural created by students of the Ithaca City School District as a result of a public art collaboration between the City of Ithaca and Ithaca City School District (ICSD) art teachers. This project was facilitated by the Fine Arts Booster Group, an affiliate of the Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI), and supported by many community organizations.

The fifty-five foot mural was installed adjacent to the newly named “Butterfly Alley” in downtown Ithaca and has been donated to the City of Ithaca. The mural design represents an aerial view of the creeks feeding Cayuga Lake, our watershed. The clay tiles represent land and the lake rocks represent water, celebrating art and nature. This design was created by district art teachers with inclusive and developmentally appropriate educational goals in mind.

Photo: Lauren Comly

Students from ten schools from all grade levels worked on the clay tiles in their art classes. Each school was assigned a “land mass” or section and students worked collaboratively to make their imprints in clay.

Students made their textural impressions using a combination of natural objects and other items that represent their heritage and experiences. After the class collaboration, the sections were cut into tiles and kiln-fired, stained and fired again.


Once a school section was finished, the tiles were brought to a central location, assembled and affixed to panels. These panels were made according to City of Ithaca engineer’s specifications to ensure structural support and outdoor viability. 

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From left to right above: Annemarie Zwack, with art teachers: Jocelyn Lutter, Kate Ciccone, Gary Bercow, and Sarah Locke.

The assembly process engaged community volunteers and students and coordinating artist Annemarie Zwack. Belle Sherman Elementary School’s art room became the designated assembly center due to room size, storage space and willing art teacher, Sarah Locke. Zwack became an “artist in residence” during this period, enabling Belle Sherman students the additional benefit of observing work as a part of their art classes.


On June 4, 2010 Mayor Carolyn Peterson cut the ribbon at the public unveiling of Watershed Wall. Two years from date of inception, we celebrated the completion of a public art project made possible through school, city, and community collaboration in Ithaca, New York.

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Project Goals

Celebrate children’s art education and connect our community to the schools.

Project Outcomes:

  • Significant public art piece representing our public school students
  • A model for public art collaboration across schools and within the community 

  • Student participation – 1,000 students involved in ten schools with clay making, additional 800 students in lake and stream study and trout in the classroom study through the Floating Classroom
  • First community collaboration among Department of Public Works, Public Art Commission and ICSD 

  • Artist in residence in the schools
  • Connection of science curriculum to art 

Project support came from the Fine Arts Booster Group (FABG), City of Ithaca Department of Public Works and Public Art Commission, Ithaca City School District art teachers, Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI), IPEI Teacher Grants and FABG mini-grants, Service League, Tompkins Trust Company, All Stone and Tile Company, Tim Merrick Construction, Cayuga Lumber Company, Annemarie Zwack, Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom and Trout in the Classroom Projects, Strebel Community Enrichment Fund of the Community Foundation of Tompkins County, and A & B Awards.




Photos: Mary C. Hunt, Costume Designer

This production featured an amazingly talented and special cast. It included students who have participated and contributed to our program, as well as many students new to our program. It has been rewarding to watch the hard work and generosity of these fine young people as they collaborate toward a common goal of excellence. It is inspiring to watch young leaders emerge.
Lorraine Tino, Director

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Mini Grant: Photography/Book Making Project & Charles R. Smith, Jr. Visit - a Beverly J. Martin Elementary School Project Funded by an FABG mini-grant

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Report from grant recipient, Paula Long, Teacher-Librarian, BJM Elementary School

The month spent with students taking photographs and creating individual pages to go into class books excited and empowered students to new modes of expression and helped them be thoughtful and astute participants in the author, Charles R. Smith, Jr.’s visit. In addition to the technical skills students gained, and the opportunity to express ideas and aesthetics, the experience of participating in workshop with professionals who are not their regular teachers gave students a sense of respect and a real ownership in their work and product.

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Since this photo project I have noticed more and more teachers undertaking projects which include students integrating photography and video into presentations. Our photo book project has given both teachers and students the technical and artistic boost to confidently engage students in this sort of hands-on, multi-media education. The two new cameras, memory sticks and memory card readers have made the logistics of these projects that much easier.

In addition to the cameras, the materials portion of the grant allowed us to purchase the materials to create beautiful books for each child to take home (and copies for use in the library, counseling room, and the Principal’s office) to read and reread and share with families and friends and relive the project. Students take such pride in their work and I have received so much positive feedback from students, families, and teachers. I hope to continue many similar smaller-scale projects on an ongoing basis.

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Cabaret Night 2011 - Another Example of Student Work in Pictures

Photos: Judy Cogan

Cabaret Night, an event sponsored by the IHS Orchestra, features performers from the entire school community. Hosted by student MCs, the 2011 line up included: singers, a ballet dancer, breakdancers, a jazz band, an Irish dancing duo, and a Korean drumming ensemble. Snacks prepared and served by the orchestra helped make for a nightclub atmosphere.

Cabaret Night brings together all parts of the IHS community to enjoy the talents of their peers. It’s truly a community event.

Proceeds help fund the music trip in the spring - this year the IHS Orchestra heads to Philadelphia to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra and see a play at Annenberg Center.

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large_Memoryproject2018_0.PNG Thank you Ithaca High Art Teacher Carol Spence for applying for FABG Mini-grants to do The Memory Project. IHS art students create portraits of young people who live in orphanages in other countries. This art connection is often the only personal item the children possess. The exchange teaches much to students here and children there. Here is a video from the 2017 experience.