Milling Around is the title of the public artwork that has beautified Clinton since 2011.
“I am so excited to finally have discovered and learned to appreciate it,” exclaimed Lynne Spell, art teacher at Salemburg and Roseboro Elementary schools.
Exploring downtown Clinton is rapidly becoming an adventure. New storefronts continue to appear. Spell recently found inspiration for a new art lesson when visiting Simply NC, one of downtown Clinton’s new businesses.
It was there that Spell first discovered and purchased a beautifully designed t-shirt displaying Clinton’s new slogan, Mill Around Downtown Clinton. This t-shirt drew Spell’s attention to the Milling Around artwork and how it is being used to rebrand and revitalize downtown Clinton.
The t-shirt design sparked Spell’s curiosity to learn more about the artwork. The t-shirt cleverly incorporates a colorfully embroidered graphic representation of the millstone, from the public artwork as the “O” in the word Clinton, drawing attention to the play on words between the slogan and the title and subject of the artwork.
One North Carolina Standard Course of Study essential standard for visual art for third graders states that, “Students will understand how art documents the history of the local community”.”
From that, Spell’s new art lesson was born. First, all third grade students were shown an unlabeled photo of Milling Around and asked to write what they thought they already knew about this “mystery image” as a pre-assessment during art class.
The initial extent of most students’ understanding of the Milling Around artwork only included its location in Clinton. There were many amusing guesses as to what the circles were including the moon, CD’s, DVD’s, and doughnuts.
Next, student reading levels were used to form collaborative groups, for researching the image, using a classroom supply of Milling Around brochures (a literacy connection with informational text) obtained free of charge from the Sampson County Agri-Expo Center. The research explained that the circles were images of a millstone like the one from the gristmill of John Sampson, Sampson County’s namesake that, had once been located near the area that is now the City of Clinton.
Spell herself then wanted to know what a gristmill was (not being a Sampson County native but more of a city slicker). So, she learned along with the third graders, by presenting a brief online video of a restored, functioning gristmill, how the millstones were used within the mill to grind nuts, grain, and corn into flour.
Spell and the third graders learned together how that gristmill became a community gathering place from which the City of Clinton grew, and how the millstone image in the artwork documents Clinton’s history as a local community. Spell also discussed with students an additional purpose for the Milling Around artwork being to bring downtown Clinton “back to life” by attracting visitors.
Following the research phase, students were quizzed individually about Milling Around and began prewriting a final paragraph about the artwork using a graphic organizer. Then students wrote their final paragraphs about Milling Around as post-assessment, to demonstrate growth in their understanding of the artwork, and drew their own version of the millstone from the photo of the artwork on the brochure.
Spell talked with Deborah Thompson, owner of the Simply NC store, about the possibility of selling student-made magnets as souvenirs of a visit to downtown Clinton. Thompson agreed, more than willing to cooperate in creating a real life learning experience for these students.
Thompson generously agreed to offer the student-made magnets for sale at Simply NC. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the magnets will be returned to Salemburg and Roseboro Elementary Schools to use for future art projects.
Then, just when it seemed to the children as if they would never get to actually make any artwork, Spell brought in one rubber stamp printed from a Salemburg student drawing and one printed from a Roseboro student drawing.
All Salemburg and Roseboro third graders were able to flatten two small pieces of clay into slabs and stamp on their schoolmate’s design. Volunteer, Kathy Doughty, glazed these and Spell fired them in the kiln.
Some magnets from Walmart and a little hot glue helped Spell turn the stamped clay slabs into magnets that are now for sale at Simply NC. Each student got a magnet to keep as well. The project has finally come full circle, with students being able to contribute to the revitalization of downtown Clinton, by offering their artwork for sale in hopes of attracting visitors, who will, in turn, appreciate the unique shops, restaurants, and the Milling Around artwork.