LOGANSPORT, Ind. (AP) - More than 60 years ago, a Lake Cicott elementary art teacher asked his students for designs done in wax crayon.
They had to have a center of interest, he said. Warm colors against cool colors, light against dark, some repeated pattern. And the designs had to come out of their own heads.
That teacher collected the designs and chose the best for display in the school hallway. More students took up the challenge, snatching bits of time between reading and math assignments to color in tiny squares on graph paper.
“We saw an experiment in color and design take hold and come into its own,” the teacher, Lawrence Thompson, recorded later.
He gathered and matted them, hoping to bind them into a book. However, they remained in a stack for decades, even passing down to his son, Larry Thompson, at his death more than 20 years ago. They made their way back to Logansport recently for what the teacher’s son hopes will be a reunion with the original childhood artists, now well into adulthood.
Lawrence and his wife, Princess Thompson, co-taught art at Lake Cicott School, according to an explanatory sheet dated May 1955, accompanying the student art collection. The school, a few miles west of Logansport, was built in 1916 and had grown in 1930 after the consolidation of Jefferson Township’s schools. In turn, the rural school became part of Pioneer Regional School Corp. during another consolidation in 1963. The building itself was demolished in 1978.
“It was a good country school,” former student Dave Forgey recalled. “About all the students came from farms around the township.”
The Thompsons likely had no more than a few dozen pupils. About five years before their project, a 1950 article unearthed by Cass County Historical Society Director Thelma Conrad recorded the entire school had about 150 students in its eight grades.
“In my class, when I was in eighth grade, I’m going to say there were about 16, 18 students in Lake Cicott,” Forgey said. Now a Cass County dairy farmer, he moved on to Royal Center High School after his time at Lake Cicott Elementary and graduated in 1961.
Students finishing eighth grade at the time transferred to a high school in either Burnettsville, Royal Center or Logansport, according to Conrad.
Dorothy Packard, who also graduated in 1961, recalled the Lake Cicott school as being very friendly.
“Everyone knew everyone,” she said. “We just had a very close, tight school there.”
Lawrence and Princess’s son, Larry, was in first grade at Lucerne Elementary School at the time, he recalled. His parents went on to teach at schools across the state before the family settled between Terre Haute and Crawfordsville, where Larry remains. He’s now 68.
He called his parents good teachers who never played favorites.
“He kicked me out of class one day ‘cause I was talking to the girls,” Larry said of his father.
Lawrence retired in 1970 after 41 years, his son Larry said, and died in 1992 of a massive heart attack on Thanksgiving morning.
Before his death, he’d shown Larry the simple art collection - more than 65 pieces on white or ivory mattes.
“I don’t know why he gave these to me,” Larry said recently. “He said, I want you to have these, before he died.”
They sat in Larry’s home, undisturbed, until he read a news article in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star about Logansport’s Indiana 2016 Teacher of the Year, Jitka Nelson.
The news of Logansport’s teacher turned his thoughts to his parents, and he wrote to the newspaper about their time in the Logansport area, asking whether the art collection might somehow be returned to the students who created it.
His father had noted each student’s name on the matted pieces, which are also numbered, as if in the order he hoped to eventually bind them into book form.
Most are geometric designs in wax crayon on graph paper. Some are crayon etchings - an art form in which a multicolored layer is covered in a thick black layer, which can then be scratched away in places to reveal the colors underneath. A few are paper collage portraits.
“Though charming, they are not, of course, without blemish,” Lawrence wrote of his pupils’ work. “They are not products of master craftsmen. The very mistakes take on interest and meaning.”
Forgey and Packard - whose childhood names grace a few of the mattes - don’t recall the project, they said this month. After more than 60 years, Forgey said, it’s no surprise.
Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune, https://bit.ly/2hfGYne
Information from: Pharos-Tribune, https://www.pharostribune.com
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