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Students Weld Recycled Metal Scraps Into Sculptures

Students in all Patricia Leeson's art classes at Nicolet are helping build two, approximately eight-foot tall, recycled metal sculptures with the help of professional sculptor, Paul Bobrowitz, Jr. of Colgate, WI.

A rusted, orange gear for the head, shattered CD's for the scales and half of a dozen metal clamps to create the tail, two Nicolet High School junior girls have nearly finished their dragon. 

"We're a painting class, so we normally don't get to do this kind of stuff, but it's really fun because this is completely different," Natalie Muenster said. 

Students in each of regardless of course title, are learning about recycling what some may call garbage into beautiful works of art. 

"The goal for them is to learn to use recycled pieces to make art," Leeson said. "It's green and to problem solve using materials that are available as opposed to running out and buying something."

And to help walk students through the art of building with recycled metal is Paul Bobrowitz, Jr., a professional sculptor from Colgate, WI. 

"What I do is re-purpose scrap, things that otherwise would be crushed, recycled, sent overseas, melted down and they'd come back here as new material to be used in the manufacturing process again," Bobrowitz said. "I like to think that what I'm doing is short-cycling, keeping some things here, making something beautiful out of what people are throwing away."

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Adina Barrientos is also a junior at Nicolet and currently is in one of Leeson's Painting classes. But she also is getting to learn how to repurpose metal and said she likes the balance of working with Bobrowitz and solo.

"It's really nice getting to work with a professional but at the same time, getting to experiment on our own," Barrientos said. 

Repurposing garbage

Leeson loaded up about 80 students onto a bus and took them out to Bubrowitz's sculpture garden in Colgate, WI about two weeks ago to see the kind of creations a professional sculptor can make. Bubrowitz said he loves working with students because they're so receptive.

"(I'm) opening people's eyes to (the fact that) your garbage can be beautiful. I like to think that I'm starting with the younger kids who are receptive to that idea and creating part of a whole new generation of thinkers outside the box," Bubrowitz said. 

After the thought-provoking trip for student, Leeson went out to Industrial Recyclers and filled a pickup truck with materials. 

"We didn't know what we were getting, we just were looking for cool pieces that had some interesting designs and things," Leeson said. 

They brought them back to the school and it was a free-for-all for students to pick what they wanted to design their own individual sculptures and contribute to the two, large pieces that will be displayed on Nicolet property. 

Many of the smaller sculptures are made of blue, mustache-looking frills that came from a street sweeper, broken CD's, car parts and gears. 

The Nicolet Foundation donated $3,000 to bring Bubrowitz in to help students and purchase all the scrap metal. In return, many of the student creations will be auctioned off and the proceeds will go back to the Nicolet Foundation for future project funding. 

"I think it's really fantastic that she's pulling the whole art department together just to do this one thing," Muenster said. "I like how they're bringing a sculptor and everyone gets to participate."

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