TITLE: High school Poppy Project honors veterans
SUBHEAD: Project involving 500 ‘poppies’ on outdoor display Nov. 11
By JACKIE KOCH
Tecumseh High School students got a lesson on the meaning of Veterans Day while creating poppies for a large art display after art teachers Christine Obeid and Jackie Whiteley decided to recognize veterans this fall instead of planning the art department’s annual Empty Bowls fundraiser. The display, called “The Poppy Project,” will be open to the public starting on Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11, and will be up for about a week.
“I know it’s crazy to plan a big event in the time of COVID, but that is the way we work,” said Obeid. “Jackie and I met over the summer and planned to recognize veterans this year. We found inspiration from an art installation in England in which artists made 100,000 ceramic poppies to display in honor of World War I veterans.”
Students and other local artists have worked to make the small poppy sculptures, which will be placed in the high school sculpture garden on the east side of the building. The teachers hope to have at least 500 poppies representing veterans from Lenawee County who lost their lives in foreign wars. Those who visit the installation may purchase and take a poppy by leaving a donation in a locked cash box located on the fence, with all proceeds going to a veterans’ organization that students will choose.
Obeid said she and Whiteley wanted to do the project to take the students’ minds off the pandemic and recognize veterans who sacrificed for the country. “Jackie and I both have family that were in the military,” she said. “Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II. We had class discussions with students and they had the opportunity to share about their family members involved in the military and wars.”
Senior Jade Crosby said that the project has helped her become more aware of the significance of Veterans Day, as she learned about veterans and the sacrifices they made. “The poppies are a symbol for the veterans that died in World War II and it was really eye-opening to read about the brutal realities of war and what these veterans went through,” she said. “My great-grandpa served in the Army during the Vietnam War, but he was thankfully still stationed in the United States. My family has always been very serious about respecting veterans because of my grandpa’s service, so I’m really glad we have the opportunity to recognize them through this project.”
Crosby said her class learned about the significance of the poppies and spent about two weeks making their poppies out of clay, firing them in the kiln, and painting each one. Other artists who contributed to the project include retired art teacher Ron Frenzen, who was involved in planning as well as making poppies. Members of Community Arts of Tecumseh created poppies and are providing advice and support, and local artist Anne Flora donated wool for mixed media students to create felted wool poppies. Obeid and Whiteley have been working with Jessica Sattler from the City of Tecumseh’s Economic Development Department to collaborate and involve the community with the art installation.
The public is invited to an opening celebration to be held Wednesday, Nov. 11 from 9-10 a.m. The teachers are not setting a price for the poppies, but encourage people to make a donation of their choosing. The only payments accepted will be cash or a check made out to Tecumseh High School. Because of the pandemic, the school will not be open to guests, so visitors must park in the parking lot or the service drive and walk through the sculpture garden to view the installation or purchase poppies.
In the process of creating the poppies, the students found a connection to those of a different generation. “These poppies hold a lot of meaning and this project has really helped me develop a greater respect for veterans,” said Crosby.
Proceeds of this project were split equally between Fisher House and Wilwin.