It will be a first for artist Justin Ayala and students from West York Area High School.

Starting Monday, an art project, aptly called The Project, will be on display in the East Wing Rotunda of the state Capitol in Harrisburg.

"It's not just a pretty picture hanging on the wall," said Ayala, the resident artist at the school during part of the 2011-12 school year. "It's cool to know it'll be in front of that big of an audience."

It's the first time Ayala will have a project he's worked on displayed at the Capitol.

Every student and staff member at the school lent a hand to create The Project, a series of four mosaic murals on movable displays that include media displays to allow teachers to continue to use the art in classes.

Natasha King watches a slideshow on a tablet computer as part of the  I Say  panel of West York High School s The Project.
Natasha King watches a slideshow on a tablet computer as part of the I Say panel of West York High School s The Project. (File photo)

Ayala was at the school on a grant from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts.

The Project will be on

display until Oct. 19.

Work on the art project, themed: "I See, I Say, I Feel, I Hear," got under way at the start of last school year when Ayala recruited students in a manufacturing class to design and build the displays.

From there, students took the reins. Art students created some of the large ceramic pieces, such as a stop sign and flowers, for the mosaics. Other students created videos that will be shown on four tablet computers that are integrated into the mosaics. Another student wrote original music to accompany the videos.

During their free periods and after school, students cut and fitted pieces of ceramic into place on the mural.

All told, The Project included 14 different academic disciplines and 18 art functions, Ayala said.

"That's what educational, integrated art is all about," he said.

But it wasn't until the last minute that The Project was finished for the time being.

About 15 minutes before the last bell rang on the last day of school, the art installation was wheeled into the school's lobby, said Penny Shearer, a sculpture and ceramics teacher.

"It was a very exciting moment," she said.

Graduating students had a chance to see the exhibition on graduation night, while the rest of the students had to wait until the start of the school year to see the fruits of their labor.

Return visit: As The Project is being wheeled into the Capitol on Friday, Shearer and Ayala will be speaking at a Pennsylvania Art Education Association conference.

On Tuesday, the duo will sit on the panel of the Arts and Education Symposium, where Shearer said she hopes to tout the artwork in hopes of enticing other districts and schools to create similar projects.

"We've lost a lot of the opportunity for students to develop thinking skills," Shearer said.

Art classes, and similar art projects, she added, would tap into students' creative sides.

Shearer said she hopes to continue to reach the creative side of West York students by continually evolving The Project.

Ayala will return to West York's middle and high schools next autumn to further work with students to create art, Shearer said.

"We're hoping to bring him back every couple of years," Shearer said. "We really want to keep this alive."

In case you can't make it to Harrisburg to view West York Area High School's artwork, The Project, you can check it out online.

A student-designed website,, provides detailed information about The Project's different phases and contributors.

-- Reach Greg Gross at