Bringing Tuscany to Escanaba

ESCANABA – More than 20 Escanaba Upper Elementary students have been busy trying to capture “la bella vita,” or the beautiful life, of Tuscan Italy as part of the after-school Pre-Teen Scene program at a local Italian restaurant.

According to instructor Eddie Moritz, 22 students are enrolled in this year’s Pre-Teen Scene program through the William Bonifas Fine Arts Center, which meets once a week after school. This year’s public art project is the creation of a mural along an entrance hallway in Crispigna’s Restaurant in downtown Escanaba.

This is the second year of Pre-Teen Scene, but its third project, said Moritz, adding students have also created artwork in other local businesses like Babaloon’s and the Record Rack.

“This is aimed to give our Upper Elementary – the fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders – an opportunity to do a community project and work with businesses,” she said. “In essence, what happens is they become artist-client relationships. The business is the client; we are the artists.”

Moritz said Crispigna’s owner, Andy Crispigna, wanted a classic, romantic-type scenery for the mural, which lines both sides of the hallway.

Students have created a mural that not only includes the rolling hills of Tuscany, but also a vineyard and some old stone to give it that warm, Italian feeling.

The Pre-Teen Scene program began at the end of January; since then participants have done a lot of work and research prior to taking out the paint brushes.

“The No. 1 thing is meeting with the business,” said Moritz. “First we meet with the business and we ask the business what they are looking for…They give us ideas on what they’ve been thinking about. We take it back to the drawing board, so to speak.”

The students then do some research for images and ideas of what the business owner is looking for and figure out how to use that in the space provided.

“We then have to design something to fit the space from the ideas that we’ve gathered and we do a mock up is basically what that’s called,” she said. “We bring that mock up back to the restaurant or to the business and we see if the owner is good with it – if they like it. If they don’t like it we go back and do more work until we get it right.”

Once they get the OK, they begin collecting supplies and materials to work on the art project.

The Tuscan countryside mural will be completed in April and Moritz invites the public to see the group’s work.

“They can come down and see it anytime. When you just come to the restaurant, this is an actual public entrance and exit so people are more than welcome to walk through and check it out,” she said.

In the meantime, Moritz noted the kids are having a wonderful time and have been great to work with.

“It’s enjoyable. It’s great to have the kids and it’s great work,” she said.

The 10-week after-school program is sponsored by the Escanaba Upper Elementary PTO and Community Foundation.