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Urbana Lions help with memorial project at NHS

Northfield Jr.-Sr. High School students work on projects illuminated by the new track lights in the facility’s art room. Photo provided

By Joseph Slacian

A contribution from the Urbana Lions Club to the Northfield High School Art Department is helping the spirit of a late NHS graduate live on.

The Lions donated $1,000 to the art department to help it finish raising the $2,000 needed to revamp the track lighting in the school’s art room.

The donation was made in memory of Vanessa Baer, a 2002 Northfield graduate and art student who was killed in a September 2005 airplane crash in rural that claimed three other people.

“It brings tears to my eyes as I type this,” Northfield art teacher Kelly Schuler told The Paper of Wabash County in an email, “as I can see Vanessa still in my mind as she worked in this room, and her bubbly personality, smile and freckles filled the space she was in.”

The lights, Schuler wrote, “created a whole new atmosphere for all in the art room, and all students in grades seven to twelve from here forward will be impacted.”

Schuler, in an interview with The Paper, said the lights are something that the students now expect to be turned on every day.

“The kids will ask me, like if I don’t have them on and I have the regular lights on, they’ll ask, ‘Can we turn on – they call them dramatic lights or special lights?”

Art teacher Lynne Keffaber noted they also refer to them as “mood lights.”

The lights, she said, help to cast more shadows when the students are working on still life projects.

Before the tract lights were installed, the teachers used hog lights, which are generally used to light hog barns.

“We would have to run extension cords all over the place,” Schuler said, and Keffaber noted that the lights were clamped into place.

There were problems with the old system, they noted, none-the-lease of which were the cords run throughout the room.

“Then one might get moved and that changes all the highlights and shadows if the light isn’t at the same angle and in the same direction of what they were working on the day before,” Schuler said.

The new lights cost $2,000, some of which the students raised with a Port-a-Pit chicken dinner.

Schuler’s father, Larry Hoover, donated supplies and labor through his business, Quality Electric. The lights were installed in October.

The Lions Club raised the money at a golf outing. In addition to the Northfield project, the club used money for the Wilbur Dawes college scholarship fund, and for helping in the upkeep and maintenance of the Urbana ball field and the Urbana Community Building.

“Other teachers have even commented that as they pass by in the hall and see a little glimpse through the window they want to be able to come in here and work because it just looks like a wonderful place to be,” Schuler said.

The students also enjoy the new lighting system.

“I think the lights give off a great reminder of how much art can change someone’s life,” Braelyn Deeter said. “Not only must Vanessa have loved art, but obvioulsy others knew she loved it and reflected that by donating to her art class.

“The lights give a great feel of being in a real art studio.”

Travis Corn likened the lights to those used in a college studio.

“The lights are nice over the pottery lights because it gives you the sense of being in your own world and it cancels out all distractions,” he said.

Attie Schuler also likened it to something she learned at a college workshop.

“I went to a college art studio for a workshop once, and the professor told me how important it was to have good lighting and how much it added to a piece,” she said. “Now that the spotlights have been put in the art room, it feels so much like a college studio, and I’m excited to use the lights to observe and draw still life.”

Schuler and Keffaber thanked the Urbana Lions and Quality Electric for their donations.

Schuler said the teachers debated various projects, “and we just really felt like having a lasting project in here, that all of the students would be impacted by it.”

The teachers shared Baer’s story with all the classes, and they plan to continue to do that in the future.

“We’ve told each of the classes the story of why these are here, and a little bit about Vanessa,” Schuler said. “And we’ve already had some new seventh and eighth grade classes that weren’t in here when they were put of in the fall, so I told those classes.

“Part of it just breaks my heart that we had this project,” she continued. “But at the same time we’re very grateful and we tried to be very thoughtful in what we could do.”

“I think it’s a great thing,” Keffaber said, “because it will last, so I think it’s a great thing for her memory.”

The students also know the importance of the memorial.

“When you see the lights it also makes us think of Vanessa Baer and how grateful we are for the donating of the money to the project,” Kandra Stout said. “May Vanessa always be remembered in this room.”

Posted on 2016 Jan 19