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Talking through tiling

How do you get elementary-age kids to think about grown-up concerns like tolerance, peace or the environment? Anne Francey thinks art is the key.

Francey, a painter and ceramic tile artist living in Saratoga Springs, visits local schools and helps the young students complete art projects that focus on themes. Each student draws a picture or paints on a tile an individual image and Francey uses her creative eye to meld them all together in a huge, collective mural.

I look for what they have in common and create patterns, said Francey, who said she usually shows the students a sample picture so they understand what their project will look like at the end. "It's important they understand what we are trying to express with this type of work, encourage them to be very creative and create unique pictures that will turn into a large mural to show what we are; unique creatures and individuals but as a society, we try to find what we have in common."

Francey said the kids do most of the work, tasked with the challenge of expressing their feelings on something abstract like diversity, respect, caring, tolerance, peace or the environment.

"It's my job to take the tiny little pictures they create and put them [together]. If you look at the finished product very close you'll see individual pictures, but from a distance see overall patterns," said Francey.

Francey visited a Saratoga Springs elementary school Tuesday, Jan. 18, for a project that lasted through Friday. She said no matter how young her amateur artists are, the pictures they produce can be breathtakingly beautiful and striking.

"The images I notice that are most moving are the ones that either express concern about the environment, like 'we hope that all the animals and trees will be safe and keep the world as it is,' and others that are about tolerance and peace, with people holding hands; I find them beautiful, people from different races," said Francey. "Sometimes they're just little masterpieces. They're artistically very beautiful."

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