Students dedicate sculpture in memory of teacher's son

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

SUWANEE -- Jeff Mather said he has always associated peace with stillness.

The community-based public artist said a sculpture at North Gwinnett High School helped him develop another interpretation of peace. The 13-by-10 foot sculpture of a surfboard and a wave, titled "Peace," contains a lot of movement.

"You have to actively work for peace," said Mather, who guided the 35 students who created the sculpture.

The student-crafted sculpture was dedicated Thursday morning during a ceremony that celebrated the arts.

"The work and the love that went into this project over the last three weeks is something to be celebrated," said art teacher Debi West, who envisioned the project.

The sculpture was created to represent the wholeness of North Gwinnett, but it was dedicated in memory of West's son, Croy, who died 20 months ago at the age of 11. Croy had urea cycle disorder, a genetic disorder caused by a deficiency of one of the enzymes in the urea cycle responsible for removing ammonia from the blood stream.

Because Croy was autistic, West wanted the visual art students to work with special education students to create the sculpture.

Brandon Whitman, one of the visual art students who helped create the sculpture, said he enjoyed the collaboration that went into the project. He said the special education students had some of the best ideas for the sculpture.

Whitman, a senior, said the sculpture is a point of pride not only for him and his classmates, but for the entire school. But when he looks at the sculpture, he said the first thing he thinks about is Croy.

"He was the inspiration for this," Whitman said. "He provided the drive and the motivation to go through with it."

The project got started after West won a $2,500 award from the Woodruff Arts Center, which she donated to the Young Audiences program. That donation paid for Mather to come to the school and work with the students.

Much community support also helped the project come to fruition. Suwanee Lumber Co. donated more than $700 worth of wood -- walnut, mahogany, cypress and white oak -- for the sculpture, and other donations came from Phoenix Metals Co. in Norcross, The Home Depot in Suwanee and Buford, Ace Hardware, the North Gwinnett cheerleaders and the North Gwinnett PTSA.

West said she envisions the sculpture as a centerpiece for an outdoor classroom.

School board member Daniel Seckinger said he thinks the sculpture can serve an important purpose.

"The arts brings people together who might not otherwise be on the same page," he said. "This (is) a focal point of what the arts are supposed to do: bring people together."