For years a stained-glass mosaic of a wildcat head in the center of a large “M” hung in the old Mead Middle School before the school was demolished.
But the piece of art, created by former teacher Monte Moore and a host of students, was rescued and now hangs in the Mead School District’s new maintenance facility.
Director of Maintenance Travis Bown said the district’s former superintendent asked him to remove the window from the school after it was shut down, and it has been kept in several locations, including Bown’s office. “He tasked me with becoming the curator for it,” he said.
Recently Bown and others began discussing taking the window out of its box and putting it back on display.
“We wanted it to go somewhere it could be seen but not so public it could be damaged,” he said.
The new maintenance facility was recently finished and includes a large wall that faces the street. Bown said he thought it would be a great place to hang the window, where it’s visible to cars driving by on Market Street. He pulled together an electrician, a painter and two carpenters, and tasked them with hanging the art.
As they worked, they noticed markings on the glass and thought it had been damaged or vandalized. It turned out to be the names of the students who helped create the window, which are only visible in certain light.
“You can see dozens of names on there, 30 names, of students who helped,” he said.
As they worked, Bown reached out to Moore to let them know what they were doing, but didn’t hear back right away. Then, the very day they were preparing to hang the window, Moore walked in the door.
Moore said until he heard from Bown’s office, he had no idea what happened to the window. He’d gone to check on it when Mead Middle School closed and found it missing. No one he contacted knew what had become of it.
“I didn’t know where it was,” he said.
He had worried the window had been damaged or broken when it was removed.
“They were careful,” he said. “There was one crack. I was glad it was not in a dumpster somewhere.”
Moore said he’s glad he happened to stop by when the window was being hung.
“It was fun,” he said. “I’m happy it’s there.”
The window is not the first Moore created with students in his 40-plus years as a teacher. “I did my first one at Glover Middle School when I was there,” he said.
Moore has been a glass artist since the 1970s and always looked for a way to bring his passion into schools and introduce students to the art form. He created windows at Mead Alternative High School and at schools in Deer Park. He involved students in each one.
“The idea is community participation, getting kids involved,” he said.
The window that hung at Mead Middle School was done by students in an after-school study program Moore was running as well as band students. “There was a lot of hands in there,” he said.
Moore said it’s also a way to expose kids to art and to allow schools to have art that they couldn’t afford to pay for.
“I already have the skill set,” he said. “It’s just what I do.”
Moore said students always enjoyed helping with the window projects. “When they got to actually do it, they didn’t want to stop,” he said.
Though Moore has retired from teaching, he’s still doing art. He’s currently working on a window for the Deer Park Library.
“It’s a huge passion of mine,” he said. “Always has been.”
The Mead Middle School window was recently taken down for a few days so the back lighting could be made brighter. It’s back up now, shining brightly to motorists driving by at night. Bown said he’s glad the window was saved.
“Every day someone comes in and talks about how beautiful it is,” Bown said. “I just got to be a lucky guy to be a part of this.”
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