School's art project is under wraps

May 30, 1997


Staff Writer

Culminating a year-long project that would have made artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude proud, the students at the Alternative Learning Center on South Potomac Street wrapped their building in an elaborate system of bedsheets Friday.

"Obviously, the students in this building have learned an awful lot about teamwork and cooperation," said Principal Bonnie Meyer.

"These are students that at a regular school probably wouldn't be involved in this kind of a project," she said.

The students decided to undertake the project at the beginning of the school year after art teacher Kevin Cuppett introduced his class to the works of Christo Javacheff and Jeanne-Claude de Guillebon, who have made a living wrapping buildings, islands and other objects.

"All I did was encourage them to think big," Cuppett said.

"I thought it was a crazy idea but then (Cuppett) showed us these two artists and that it could be done," said John Crawford, 15, of Hagerstown.


Nine months, 150 bedsheets, nearly a mile of duct tape, another mile of ropes and cords, and a lot of hard work later, the project, "Wrapped ALC," went from dream to reality.

The students first had to get permission in the fall from Schools Superintendent Wayne F. Gersen and the Washington County Board of Education. They had to write letters asking permission and appear before the school board to plead their case.

The students designed much of the artwork themselves, building a model and trying out different methods for wrapping.

"You learn every single subject," Crawford said. He said the students learned math because they had to measure the building and calculate the surface area, with help from old blueprints. The students also learned social studies and English because they wrote letters, and some learned public speaking skills when they went before the school board, he said.

Troy Lopez, 14, who now goes to Northern Middle School, came up with an elegant method for tying the sheets together nicknamed the "Lopez Weave."

"I just looked down at my shoes," he said, explaining his idea. Lopez returned to the school to see the work he had a hand in unfurled. "It's not often you'd see a school wrapped in blankets," he said.

Chris Chaney, 14, who used to go to Springfield Middle, explained that the bedsheet panels had to be specially designed to fit the building. The students had to take into account air-conditioning units and other parts that jut out from the wall. The sheets also had air holes punched in them to prevent gusts of wind from blowing them away. The whole system is then anchored by ropes to a metal chain on the school's roof.

After spending laborious weeks punching holes in the sheets and sewing and taping them together, the students said they were glad to finally see their work pay off.

Some had had enough of some of the drudgery involved, however. "I don't ever want to see any more duct tape," said Angie Milburn, 14, of Hagerstown.

Cuppett said he was proud of his kids and happy they had a chance to succeed in something. "They were just blown away today that they were able to do this," he said.

"Wrapped ALC" will stick around far shorter than it took to plan. The sheets will be taken down Sunday night.

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