McKeesport Area art class goes global to find Santa
McKeesport Area High School's academy art students learned about Christmas and cultural diversity through a sculpting project.
Denise Bollman's senior art class crafted Santas of various nationalities.
Some students took the assignment as a chance to better understand their own culture, while others explored different holiday heritages.
“We've been working on these for six weeks, and they did make the backdrop to display them and also did the research,” Bollman said. “I couldn't be more proud of them. They worked very hard. This is not an easy project. They are hand-selected, top kids.”
Students started with two large snack containers, a balloon and a piece of wire. They added plaster and their own creativity and craftsmanship.
“I love how everyone's sculpture came out,” student Lauryn D'Amico said. “You can see how each person put their personality into it. It was fun getting to work with sculpting.”
Students wrote short descriptions of the ways the cultures their work represents celebrate the holiday.
Lauryn created a male Italian Santa, even though it goes against tradition.
“The Italian Santa Claus isn't a man. It's a woman, and she's a witch,” Lauryn said. “I decided to keep mine as a man because people recognize him as a Santa. Normally, it's a witch who is looking for the Christ child. She is going around to each house looking for him, and she leaves gifts.”
Lauryn's Santa is dressed as a gondolier carrying a piece of pizza.
Katrin Villinger is Scottish and Irish, and went with a Celtic Santa.
“I thought it would be cool to get connected,” Katrin said. “I find that the culture is very interesting, and I wanted to pull that into my Santa Claus. He's wearing a dress with Celtic knots designed on it and a jacket. He's holding a Christmas tree that says ‘Merry Christmas' in Gaelic.”
Dakota Roberts said he created a Hawaiian Santa at random. It features a surfboard, grass skirt, coconut bra and leis.
“I kind of went off my own interpretation of some of the things in their culture, and kind of threw it in with my Santa, trying to make it this big thing that all the other countries have,” Dakota said. “I think it turned out quite swel. We learned different techniques of how to do things, and as you can see each of them had different techniques in how they were made.”
Devan Satterfield said her Santa is French, even though her heritage is mostly German.
“He's wearing a beret, which they mostly wear over there,” Devan said. “I painted the Eiffel Tower on his Christmas ball because Paris is a big part of the French culture. He has the fleur-de-lis embroidered along his jacket. I just like the French culture. I think it's pretty. I think the language is beautiful and I've always wanted to go to Paris.”
Kelly Hinderman said she is part Native American, descended from a tribe in South Dakota, and crafted her Santa in traditional garb of a brown buckskin dress, feathers and a dream catcher.
“The feathers represent the link between the spiritual world and the world of humans,” Kelly said. “They have Christmas trees just like Americans do, except instead of having bulbs and lights, they have mirrors hanging on it so they can reflect over the year that passed and see how they can improve themselves for the next year.
“I really liked this project. I think it was really great. It helped us grow as students and artists.”
Rachel Poturich said she discovered more about her Croatian background while crafting her Santa.
“I'm very involved in my culture, so it just seemed right for me to make one,” she said.
Her Santa wears a traditional red sash and a licitar, a heart-shaped gift.
The Santas will be on display in the high school lobby until Christmas break.
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1965,.