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Arts News

SHP Senior Leads Catholic Iconography Project

Crosses hand painted by art students represent the cultures of 30 international Sacred Heart schools
International crosses painted by Sacred Heart Preparatory (SHP) studio art students will soon grace the walls of every classroom in the new Campbell Center. They’re the product of a creative inquiry project by senior Luci Lambert during two of art teacher Peggy O’Leary’s classes this year and last.
 
Thirty total wooden crosses have been made so far, by groups of freshmen and sophomore art students, each hand painted with original designs, and featuring the Network of Sacred Heart Schools’ heart-shaped insignia.
 
It’s been a two-year-long process for Lambert, who, despite COVID-19 and remote learning causing hurdles, managed to complete the collaborative effort well ahead of her graduation this May. Once permanently displayed on the walls later this spring, she imagines visiting in the future as an alumna. “It’s been a really rewarding process—I’m looking forward to always having that connection to the campus,” said Lambert.
 
Lambert first got involved last year as a member of the Prayer and Worship group, when SHP principal Dr. Jennie Whitcomb spoke at one of the meetings about the need for a project to establish iconography that would speak to the school’s Catholicity in the new Campbell Center. The effort followed previous projects headed up by Dr. James Everitt, chief mission, culture & strategy officer, that established crosses in both the Main Building and Homer Building.
 
As the prayer and worship ambassador enrolled in leadership inquiry last year, Lambert was key in getting efforts underway. “The group debated how religious the iconography would be—because while we’re a Catholic school, not everyone here is Catholic, so we tried to think of a good way to make everyone feel included and tie the school together,” said Lambert.
 
The idea that seemed to resonate the most with the group was a design of crosses that could be hung on the walls of each Campbell Center classroom, featuring background patterns representing different international Sacred Heart schools. “We chose schools spread out across the globe to show how culturally diverse our Network is—it’s unifying and comforting to see visually this vast community with which we have so much in common,” said Lambert.
 
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lambert had considered that the crosses be made using different art mediums. Ideas at that juncture were still solidifying: would Lambert make all of the art pieces? Would the group send out ideas to a third party to be manufactured? 
 
Luckily, just before remote learning was implemented, Lambert decided to laser cut the wood crosses in the creative inquiry lab, create a stencil for the center heart iconography, and collaborate with SHP art teacher Peggy O’Leary to present to her freshmen and sophomore art classes. Freshmen students were enlisted to help, and the creation of the first batch of 15 crosses was launched. 
 
Lambert coached her team of freshmen and sophomore art students to research their assigned school’s country and culture, including patterns and colors in textiles and architecture, and flags. The research informed each art students’ decision of what to incorporate in the background designs they would paint by hand. 
 
“Luci’s two presentations—that was a really nice thing to happen,” said O’Leary. “Having an upper classman initiate the project was really exciting. I see a nice pathway if we could keep doing things like that.” Lambert will also create an online presentation of the crosses for the entire SHP community during one of the Centering Prayers that happen daily; she plans to create a slideshow accompanied by a prayer.
 
In January, with the project nearly complete as sophomores wrapped up their set of crosses and Lambert finished four of her own, O’Leary and Lambert walked around the Campbell Center making note of where each cross would be displayed, with a placard of information about the project. The plan is for crosses to be hung in each classroom, on all three levels of the building, directly across from doorways “so it’s the first thing you see when you walk in a room,” says Lambert. Additionally, the goal is to include crosses in conference rooms, in the Academic Support Center, and in the Hearth kitchen. 
 
As Lambert put finishing touches on the collection of crosses in the studio art classroom one recent afternoon, principal Dr. Whitcomb stopped by, exclaiming, “Luci, well done! I am so excited to see the fruition of this project… What a visually stunning way to honor the RSCJ and many student artists.” Then Dr. Whitcomb asked if she could choose one for her own office. So, while the project has officially concluded, there may be more produced due to popular demand.
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Founded by the Society of the Sacred Heart, SHS is a Catholic, independent, co-ed day school for students in preschool through grade 12