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Six-foot black panther constructed by Gros Morne students becomes school mascot


Sharing a love of art

ROCKY HARBOUR, N.L. —

Thanks to the creative efforts of Grade 9 students, Gros Morne Academy in Rocky Harbour now has a six-foot black panther mascot proudly displayed in the school lobby.
Local artist Miranda Reid volunteered her time to lead the project. Her 15-year-old daughter, Summer Burridge, is one of the students involved in the arts project.
Miranda worked closely with the students and their teacher, Denise Reid (no relation to Miranda).
The students started the project in October 2018 and finished recently, just as the school year ended.
They made the cat from 90 per cent recycled materials, Miranda said.

The process
Initially, she found some discarded metal pipe that she had welded to a base for the inside frame.
The students then brought in plastic bags and cardboard boxes to make the form, which they then covered in numerous layers of paper mache, followed by homemade paper clay.
“We even took paper out of the shredder. That paper gives you more freedom to sculpt into the shape you want,” Miranda said.
As the project progressed, students had different opinions on what it would be. It was a great learning process for the students, she said.
All students in the school were invited to submit a name for the mascot, and the students working on the project chose the name T’Challa. The name comes from the Black Panther movie: T’Challa – the time capsule.

Teamwork
The project is one that students in years to come will get to enjoy and one that every student in the school participated in, Miranda said.
Before the form for the cat was closed, she said, every child from K-12 wrote their name, age and thought of the day and put it in paper bag. All the bags were then placed inside the cat.
If the piece of art breaks down in years to come, she said, the students’ memories from the current school year can be read.
Miranda put many hours into the project working with the students, as well as time spent at the school on her own. She estimates the cat weighs about 300 pounds.
She is delighted with the finished piece of artwork and is thankful to the Grade 9 teacher for providing the students with everything they needed to make their mascot.
Denise said the students looked forward to working on the project.
“The transformation was amazing... This was not an individual or a small group project. They worked on it together as a class and took ownership of the project,” she said.

Fun experience
Summer said she really enjoyed working on the panther with her mother and classmates throughout the year.
“I really liked when we put the paper clay on it. We made (the clay) up in buckets then we put on gloves and put it on and smoothed it out,” she said.
“And I think it’s great that it’s in the school now. We have a bunch of murals and we always said we wanted a mascot. Now we have one.” 
As for Summer’s mother, Miranda will be returning to the school in the next school year to start another lengthy project with the next groups of Grade 9 students.
“It’s just so much fun to work and share with them my love for art,” she said.
danette@nl.rogers.com

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