For folks passing through Kerrytown – whether to Zingerman’s Deli, Kerrytown Market & Shops or the farmers market – it’s easy to overlook the backside of Community High School. But two new banners that now adorn its outer back walls aim to bring attention to the school and add some public art to the Kerrytown district.
Ansted Moss, a Commie High senior, designed the two 24-foot by 12-foot vinyl pieces, which are stretched like a canvas over metal bars facing South Fifth Avenue. They were hung over the course of two days – using a cherry picker lift – just before school started.
Kris Hermanson, who taught art for 30 years at CHS before retiring two years ago, describes them as “elegant, yet edgy and original.”
Hermanson was brought into the project by Peter Ways, the school’s dean, who had the idea of creating banners but was finding that students weren’t enthused about the project. She looked for images of cool banners all over the world, and posted those on a bulletin board for students to see.
“They don’t like anything with symbolism or anything remotely trite,” she says.
Then, the school’s new art teacher, Elena Flores, told Hermanson and Ways about Ansted Moss, and how talented he was as a designer. At the time, Ansted was dual-enrolled at Community and Pioneer High School. When he agreed to do the project he wanted to learn what parts of the building held significance for students. The distinctive arch over the doorways in the front of the school was central to that, he says, and he wanted to bring that “classical, regal sense” to the more modern, metal planes in back.
As an artist, he’s also interested in the concepts of growth and movement, especially as it relates to the dynamics of a school – whether it’s the interactions between students and faculty, or new information being learned or technology used as tools in the classroom. He tried to capture that sense of movement by incorporating a swirl of words into the banners, “a random yet still directed placement.”
Ansted said he was given almost complete freedom in the project – an independence that’s the school’s trademark. He came up with three designs – all created digitally on his MacBook with a 13-inch monitor, making it a challenge to envision how they’d look at a much larger size. Based on feedback from students, Ansted tweaked his design, then worked with Highlander Graphics in Whitmore Lake to produce the two large pieces.
It’s gratifying to see his work writ large and in public, Ansted says. “It’s very exciting to come outside and see students looking at it and talking about it.”
The project cost $6,000 for both the metal frames and the banners, paid for out of district bond funding approved in 2004, according to Ann Arbor Public Schools spokeswoman Liz Margolis. Because they’re exposed to the elements, the banners will be replaced in a few years with new student artwork.
It’s a bit difficult to see the banners clearly from outside of the school’s fence, which is edged with trees. But you can get a much closer view on Saturday at the HomeGrown Festival, held in Community High’s back field.
As for Ansted, he isn’t sure what he’ll do post-graduation. Artistically, he sees himself as an “architect of growth systems,” a label he feels reflects his focus on exploring ideas rather than execution in a specific medium. You can see more of his work here.