Nathan Hale-Ray Middle School students host 'Under the Big Top'

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
East Haddam - posted Tue., Jun. 7, 2011
Devin showed off his contortionist skills at the NHRMS student circus. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
Devin showed off his contortionist skills at the NHRMS student circus. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

Since the beginning of the school year, art students at Nathan Hale-Ray Middle School have been creating works with a circus theme.  From small circus train cars, to life-size circus animals made out of paper mache, the students collected their projects, waiting for the big day when they could show the rest of the community what they had been working on.

That day finally came on Saturday, June 4, as the students, led by art teacher Claudia Mazzotta and East Haddam Historical Society President Charlie Farrow, hosted “Circus Day – Under the Big Top,” an art show and sale on the grounds of the Historical Society Museum. 

This thematic study of the circus and art started last August, said Mazzotta, and was intended to be a large-scale collaboration between the museum and the art students. A grant to fund the project was turned down, but they decided “to do it scaled back. And this is what we got,” said Mazzotta.

And what they had was a true circus celebration that included - in addition to the artwork - games, a petting zoo hosted by the Ray of Light Farm, circus performances, face-painting and fortune tellers.

“Claudia and I have been working together to bring people into the museum,” said Farrow of the museum's role in the circus, which helped “get the kids in the town and the museum to get to know each other,” he said.

About 90 percent of the art in the show was made out of recycled material, from the tissue boxes used to make circus trains, to the recycled newspaper used for the life-sized animals, said Mazzotta, who added that she spent a fair amount of time “dumpster diving.”

The life-size animals “took all year to make,” said Bridget, one of the many art students helping run the circus. 

The animals made were based on those in the movie “Toby Tyler,” in which a young boy runs away to join the circus, said Sabrina, another student who helped create the sculptures, which were part of a group project between all of the middle school grades.

“Many different projects were put together to make this,” said Hannah.

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