Hannah holds Bryce Volk’s project because hers is still missing. She described the moment when she discovered the project she had started was gone.  “When I came in, Mrs. V was like why don’t you look for your books and…mine was gone…I was pretty upset.” Maria Foster holds Justin Gross’s book because her project is not yet completed.
Hannah holds Bryce Volk’s project because hers is still missing. She described the moment when she discovered the project she had started was gone. “When I came in, Mrs. V was like why don’t you look for your books and…mine was gone…I was pretty upset.” Maria Foster holds Justin Gross’s book because her project is not yet completed.

If someone told you their iPhone or iPod was stolen at school, you might not be totally surprised. But what if someone told you they had their art supplies stolen? On September 20th, art students in Mrs. Villani’s Advanced Fine Arts class found that books being used for a project were missing from the art room and ended up scattered around other parts of the school.

Some found their books, part of an altered book project modifying various compilation sets of National Geographic, Time, and Newsweek, had disappeared, even though they had already spent hours working on the project.  Senior Hannah Croft’s book is still missing and she is upset. “I started working on it for about two and a half weeks and literally gluing pages every single day.  I don’t know if you’ve ever glued like 500 pages together or more, but it’s the biggest pain in the butt to do,” explained Hannah.

Others found pieces of their project missing. Senior Ellie Kress said, “I ripped out a few pages that I was going to cut out and use, and then the pages were missing.” Nevertheless, both students were disappointed that their work was no longer in the art room.

Because of the art project and subsequent issues with the books, there is now controversy about what to do with de-circulated library materials like these books.  “I think altered books have always been controversial, altered book artists know that its controversial because, yes, you are taking a book that already has been published and you are changing it. You are in some cases cutting it, painting it, doing lots of different things to it and anytime people use a book in that way it’s considered controversial the same way it has been for 100 of years” said Mrs. Villani after being asked about the controversy.

As more students from other art classes start this project, there still has been no official explanation to students about who possibly took the books and exactly why they did.  Kress suggested the people who took them were thinking that they needed to “save the books!” Another view by Freshman Alexey Stern is that “they’re jealous. They are not creative or smart enough to be creative, so acting on primal instincts, they try to destroy what they can’t comprehend.”

Students like Juniors David Schlosser and Maria Foster shared the majority student viewpoint that the project was positive because the books were going to be recycled. Schlosser was not bothered that he had to alter the book and said, “We’re respecting the books…We’re making them better.”

According to Schlosser, the purpose of the project was to “adapt things into meaningful art.”  This reflects Villani’s intent with the project. “I wanted them to learn a new way of creating sculpture, or a new way of maybe using a material that you wouldn’t normally have thought of to use. So, it gives you the opportunity to maybe work with something a little unfamiliar with,” said Villani.

As the project nears completion, students are learning more than just how to create three-dimensional art from the altered book project. In the words of Advanced Fine Arts student Katie Lorch, she “also learned that art can be very controversial.”

-Nigel Wellons and Amelia Nahum

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