Cincinnati, Ohio, September
19, 2016 – Over
the summer, 17 students from Saint Ursula Academy visited Managua, Nicaragua to
learn about the history and culture of the Nicaraguan people. Two of those students, Caroline Leyes ’18 of
West Clermont and Josie Roe ’18 of Newport, Kentucky, were excited to bring a
special gift with them to present to the Batahola Community Center in
Managua. They, along with several other
students from Saint Ursula, worked nearly a year to design and create a piece
of artwork to be installed at the center.
This special project grew out of a visit to Cincinnati in 2014 by the Batahola Center’s beloved muralist and painting teacher, Gerardo Arias. While in Cincinnati, Gerardo created a mural at Saint Ursula in conjunction with their art class. That mural is now prominently displayed in the Keller Student Center on campus. Gerardo and Kurt Nicaise, art teacher at Saint Ursula Academy, began to imagine the ways that art could bridge the two communities and strengthen their growing friendship.
Based on their exchange of ideas, Kurt and his Art II students created a bas-relief wall sculpture from plaster, glass beads, and stained glass as part of their classwork. While in Nicaragua, they assembled it on a wall in the courtyard outside the center’s library. The sculpture is in the form of a cast plaster tree with stained-glass birds nesting in its branches. Half of the birds are native to North America while the other half are native to Central America. These birds represent the coming together of the communities. The bas-relief piece is adorned with glass beads and crowned with a large dove. The tree symbolizes our common world and communities; drawing strength from the earth while being firmly planted on the ground. Nourishing each other and ourselves within our shared communities creates spiritual fruits, which allows our souls—represented by the birds—to fly. All of this is guarded and watched over by the dove, or the Holy Spirit.
During the Saint Ursula students’ visit, the Batahola Center brought together its students and members of the community to make small plaster medallions to stand vigil at the foot of the tree. The medallions were blessed during Sunday Mass at the center. Already, the sculpture has become a beloved part of the center.
Saint Ursula Academy, in turn, will erect an identical sculpture at the Academy to complete the link. The medallions which were created and blessed in Nicaragua will also be a part of the final project at Saint Ursula Academy.
Note: Story prepared with contributions from the Friends of Batahola Summer 2016 Newsletter
Saint Ursula Academy is a Catholic, college-preparatory, secondary school for young women known for academic excellence and rich tradition. Saint Ursula welcomes students from more than 90 grade schools in the Greater Cincinnati area. The Academy is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School. The campus, located at 1339 E. McMillan Street in East Walnut Hills has been the home of St. Ursula Academy and Convent since 1910. 86% of the Class of 2016 earned college scholarships totaling more than $22-million.
Photo Caption: Saint Ursula Academy student Caroline Leyes’ 18 with the finished sculpture which is a sign of solidarity between Saint Ursula Academy (SUA) and the Center. Identical sculpture will hang at Saint Ursula Academy.