Advanced art students at Weyauwega-Fremont High School turned an empty storefront in downtown Weyauwega into a work of art.
The dozen students in Riley Johnson’s art class created a piece of installation art for the building at 105 E. Main St.
The building is between City Hall and First National Bank and is owned by the city.
“I’ve been approached several times throughout the year to have the kids do some type of artwork on Main Street,” Johnson said.
On the day he planned to talk to his students about the idea, he drove downtown before heading to school and looked at the building.
About five minutes after Johnson arrived at school that day, District Administrator Scott Bleck contacted him about the same idea.
“I presented the project to the crew,” Johnson said.
They had the option of doing their own projects or an installation piece.
The class almost unanimously agreed to do a site specific piece of art to install downtown, Johnson said.
That was in mid-October, and Johnson already had an idea to have the class do a unit on paper cutting.
The advanced art class is made up of junior and seniors.
They are Ryan Ebert, Tyler Kruzan, Regino Leon, Sabrina Loehrke, Katie McPeak, Lorelei Ponto, Miranda Potratz, Kole Ravenscroft, William Ristau, Emily Togstad, Brandy Wilcox and William Young.
The students spent a couple days talking about ideas.
It was Ravenscroft’s idea to create something that historically represents Weyauwega.
Kruzan had the idea to incorporate a train into the piece, because trains have been going through the community forever.
“Then we decided to do something layered, like a set design and then back lit. You get cool shadows and light effects,” Johnson said. “It took us quite a while. We worked on it every day, from coming up with the ultimate sketch to building layer by layer.”
They used Tyvek.
“Tyvek is better known as house wrap,” he said. “It’s usually white with the name brand on it. We bought specialty black wrap. It cuts very easily but does not tear easily.”
The students also used a waxy translucent paper called Vellum .
“It lets the light in but also diffuses it,” Johnson said.
The class started working on the project in mid October.
“The original goal was to get it done by the Christmas parade,” he said.
The parade was on Dec. 6, and about two weeks later, the piece was complete.
Joe Gruentzel, the high school’s technology education instructor, and one of his classes built the wood frame for it.
“We installed it in a building with no heat,” Johnson said. “The hard part was the mechanics, hanging it and making it work.”
It involved a lot of fishing line.
McPeak and Loehrke stood outside as the class continued setting it up, making sure everything was all right.
They saw many people drive past and then turn around and drive back down the street to see what was going on.
On Dec. 19, it was “up for business,” Johnson said.
The lights for the artwork are on a timer and go on each day at dusk.
City Administrator Patrick Wetzel liked the idea of using the empty building to showcase the work of students.
The building belongs to the community, he said.
“Personally, when they said they wanted to display art, I thought it would be nice,” Wetzel said. “When they showed me a concept and then put it up, it blew me away. It’s been an overwhelming response, nothing people have ever seen.”
Young said it is better than an empty space, and with the names of the students listed in the window, Potratz said those who stop to look at it will likely know someone on the list.
Johnson said one of the more difficult aspects of the project was for the students to imagine the scale.
They had to take a drawing on an 8 1/2 by 10-inch sheet of paper and turn it into a much larger one.
“I expect quite a bit, a high level of quality from my students,” he said. “This was the crew that could do it. They really came through and did an excellent job. If we’re going to do something, we’re going to do something really well. I think that shows.”
Johnson said this project gives the students more exposure.
“It’s nice to be recognized as being the advanced art class and for people to see our work,” Ebert said.
Their work will likely be up until February or March.
The building will be part of the expansion of city hall and the police department. The tentative timeline calls for the construction project to begin in May, Wetzel said.
“We’ve told them if there’s anything else they want to do and when our space is done, there are other spaces in downtown,” he said.