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OFF THE WALL | No ceiling on self-expression at Chatham Middle

SILER CITY — Turns out the ceiling is not the roof. Not at Chatham Middle School.

It’s a goal without a net, because art is limitless.

Ceiling tiles in the school’s art room started doubling as canvases after Chatham Middle teacher Mike White arrived last school year. Chatham Middle School art teacher Mike White guides students during a drawing assignment.  It's given students a goal of showcasing their skills up there.

Only eighth-graders can paint a tile, and they must be in art their eighth-grade year,” White said.

The great Michelangelo's work hovers in perpetuity on the ceiling of the Pope’s place in Rome. White said art created by his students will exist on high as long as he’s around and has the blessing of Chatham Middle Principal Chad Morgan.

“It is just awesome work, and the students see their expressions and expressions of past students,” Morgan said. “Giving students voice.”

The ceiling functions like a quilt, each tile a patch with its own story. White said he generally knows why students paint what they do on the tiles, which include images ranging from rainbows to rapper Cardi B. White cultivated this form of self-expression at the elementary school where he taught before coming to Chatham Middle. He said former students would come back to his classroom to see if their decorative tiles were still on the ceiling.

“I have some that came back from college, they say, “Hey, I painted that.” There names are on  it,” White said. “They took some pride in it.”

Chatham Middle seventh-grader Reagan Smith is sizing up a tile.

“It’ll mean that whenever people come next year, they can see that I did something,” Smith said.

Kyleigh Martinez is in seventh grade at Chatham Middle, where she’s eyeing the impact she’ll leave on the ceiling.

“Next year, people can actually see that I have good artwork and that I actually love to do art,” Martinez said.

The platform for self-expression is what does it for seventh-graders Jillian Bogart and Mahogany Sanford.

“Just show them, like, what you can do,” seventh-grader Zayquan Legrone said.

At some point, every tile in the art room could be covered.

Plenty of tiles — blank canvases — on the ceiling in the hallway, White offered.

The principal already commissioned the artwork.

“Wait till you see the murals we have planned for that hallway,” Morgan said. 

Published August 30, 2018