By Leah Chiappino
Comsewogue High School’s lobby will soon receive a unique face-lift. The Art Honor Society and students in the advanced studios and murals class are putting the finishing touches on a mosaic that spans the entire center of the room. Fully designed by students, it consists of intricately placed pieces of hand-cut glass that reflect in the light of surrounding windows, making the whole piece sparkle.
The project, which began construction three years ago, was the brainchild of Assistant Superintendent Joe Coniglione.
“It has been a labor of love,” he said
The area on which the mosaic now sits was once a pit where students could sit and socialize. Eventually, it was filled in with concrete and a mural was painted over it. However, over the years the floor aged and the concrete began to crack, prompting Coniglione to push for something sturdier.
“My thought process was rather than to paint it and have it crack again, we could have our amazingly talented student do a mosaic,” he said.
He brought his vision to Gina Melton, an art teacher at the high school, who ran with it.
“Both [Coniglione] and I are Italians so we appreciate mosaics,” she said jokingly. “However, mosaics are beautiful, and we figured if they could last through Pompeii, hopefully they will last through Comsewogue.”
Students then began the design process, making sure they included the school’s warrior logo, and aspects of the surrounding area of Port Jefferson Station, including the signature cherry tree outside the school’s window. They also added a starry night sky, as homage to Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, “The Starry Night,” which is a favorite among many students.
After the design was approved, students began to install the 2 million pieces, transitioning from glass to tile over time. They have to cut the pieces, lay them out and glue them down.
Melton admitted the project has been a learning curve.
“The first year the students were a little hesitant because it was so new,” she said. “545 square feet of space is a daunting task, but now that they’re seeing everything coming together, they’re very proud of it. I can’t even tell you how blessed I am to have the kids I have.”
For students who built the project, the process has had its good and bad times.
“It’s certainly resulted in many cuts and scratches over the years,” Art Honor Society Vice President Alexa Bonacci said. She added that it was worth it to be able to look back and see what was created.
While the Art Honor Society only meets once a week to work on it, several students within the club devote their free period and time after school to the mosaic. Bonacci works on it every day. She does not participate in any sports and said most people she knows work on it at least three days per week. She estimated Art Honor Society President Gianna Alcala has worked on it for at least 70 hours.
“This is something so many people are attached to,” society secretary Maison Anwar said. “When you see all the different techniques throughout the piece it makes you feel like everybody has a piece of themselves.”
The project was delayed because of the floor crack and the group of students subsequently having to redo the backboard. The original design was thrown out over the summer, forcing students to have to design much of the project themselves. This has led the district to host what they call “mosaic workshops,” enabling students to work on the project for entire days at a time. “We made a lot of headway in those days,” Melton said.
Coniglione praised the impact of the program on students.
“You would be surprised if you sat in Gina’s classroom for a day and saw students who struggle elsewhere in school,” he said. “They excel in her class because she allows students to find their creativity, and finds something good in every person,” he said.
Melton struggled to hold back tears.
“They are amazing kids,” she said.