Jennifer Houston, the kindergarten through fifth grade art teacher for Austintown Local School District presented six finished paintings at the Board of Education meeting last week. Houston's paintings represented the six schools that have been vacated or torn down to make room for the two new buildings that went into operation last month.
Houston said her art project began at Watson Elementary more than a year ago. She was asked by then-Watson Principal Sheila Palumbo to do a painting of the school before it was taken down.
"When the Board of Education found out about that request, the board members asked me to paint all six buildings," Houston said.
Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Austintown art teacher Jennifer Houston shows off three of six paintings showcasing the Austintown schools that have now been combined into the two new buildings off Idaho Road. Houston had been working on the paintings for more than a year and recently presented them at a Board of Education meeting.
The commissioned work involved Watson, Woodside, Davis, Lloyd, Lynn Kirk, and Frank Ohl. Houston said she was very familiar with most of the buildings. She is a Fitch 2003 graduate who attended Woodside Elementary in her early years. She went on to attend Youngstown State University and earned her bachelor of science and master's degree in art education, along with a bachelor's degree in art history. She returned to Austintown schools and has since taught art at Fitch and had worked in Frank Ohl and Watson. With the completion of the two new school buildings, she now divides her day between the kindergarten-through-second-grade and third-to-fifth-grade buildings.
With such a history in the old buildings both as a student and teacher, Houston was happy to take on the project.
"I actually had to go to each building and photograph them from different angles," she said. "I also had some wonderful photographs that Robert Senn had taken. I combined the photos and came up with the best view for each piece."
While the project started more than a year ago, most of the work was completed over the recent summer break. The six completed paintings were presented at the board meeting and then were shipped off to the two new buildings - Austintown Elementary School and Austintown Intermediate School. Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca said each buildings will get three paintings to hang in the hall.
Houston said when she found out they would be displayed at the new schools, she tried to make them appealing to the young students.
"I made them nice and bright for the kids," She said.
At the board meeting, Colaluca said, "Jennifer Houston is a very talented individual and she has done some amazing work on these paintings."
He said the paintings do capture the glory of the six buildings that have been combined into AES and AIS. He also said the paintings will be an important part of the history of Austintown School District.