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Students find creative way to make their mark

By Mireidy Fernandez
--Published May 17, 1998, The Miami Herald

Eighth-grader Jennifer Berlant drew bear paws and raccoons for the glass mosaic project at Palm Springs Middle, while classmate Maria Sarria drew doves and keyholes, and Adonis Sardinas, drew robotic hands.

Soon, their pictures will be converted into glass tiles, and they'll become part of a 5- by 10-foot mosaic that will be installed at the front of the school next month.

The mosaic represents the school's theme: Kids hold the key to peace and unity with all hands working together for a better future.
``It's cool because we'll leave a mark in the school, like saying, here, this is our opinion in '98, and now it's yours,'' said Jennifer, 14, an eighth-grader.
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The artwork, created by an honors art class, is the first of its kind at Palm Springs Middle.

Art in Public Places, a division of the county Cultural Affairs Department, contributed $1,500, and another $1,000 came from the Florida Department of State Cultural Affairs Council.

The grants paid for materials and for resident artist Xavier Cortada to guide the students.

Cortada, 33, spent six sessions inspiring the students to create an emotional piece in 25 colors.

``These kids have different life experiences, and we need this to create a society,'' said Cortada, who started painting when he was 7. ``. . . These kids enrich me with their presence, like when I was a kid. I'm the conductor of the symphony -- they do all the work.''

Bisazza, an Italian company with offices worldwide, will convert their art into -3/4-inch-square tiles using computer imaging at no charge.

Most of the tiles represent hands of one kind or another.

Adonis, a 12-year-old sixth grader, used robotic hands to reflect the growth of technology.

``Different hands express different kinds of feelings,'' said Adonis.

Lila Guillot, a 15-year-old eighth-grader, sketched her hand on construction paper with a picture of a Cuban flag in the middle.

``Even though I was born here, I feel more Cuban than American because of my parents,'' said Lila. ``I don't feel that there are a lot of things I'm attracted to here.''

Jennifer decided to draw the bear paws and raccoons after she went outside one day and heard animals.

``I thought we should do this not just as humans, but let's bring some animals with us,'' she said. ``I worry about our endangered animals.''

Maria, a 14-year-old eighth grader drew hands, but also depicted doves and keyholes.

``The dove represents peace, and the keyhole means to open up a better future with communication and unity for all,'' said Maria, who hopes to be a cartoon animator for Disney or Warner Bros. when she grows up.

Assistant Principal Howard Popowitz said he was pleased that Palm Springs was chosen to receive the mural.

``For it to be in Hialeah -- the artist is Hispanic and for our kids to be Hispanic -- this builds self-esteem in the part of a young person,'' said Popowitz. ``Instead of doing graffiti, it's a positive channeling as an outlet to be creative and to do something productive.''