Wells Italian and Art Students Collaborate on Venetian Masks Project

Surrounded by brightly colored, glittering masks, Henry H. Wells art students stood before Deborah Velazquez’s Italian class sharing the inspiration behind the Venetian Carnevale masks they had created. The presentation was a celebration of Italian culture and a collaboration between Velazquez’s Italian students and art students taught by Irene Othmer and Angela Spreter.

“The purpose of the masks is to hide your identity so that you can be free to do what you want to do,” a student explained. “No one knows who you are so you can just let go and have fun during this time.”

Students based their masks on a variety of themes, from flowers and birds to a jester and a jackal. Creative Arts students had about eight class periods to bring their designs to life while Art 7 students volunteered their time to make them and Italian students took about two class periods.

The results were stunning. Colorful, sparkling masks were on display in the main hallway of the middle school with brief explanations of the theme and why certain colors and motifs were chosen. During the presentations, students had the chance to share this information with their peers.

“Mine represents mixed emotions,” said Abraham. “The red represents anger and the orange is energy.”

“I just let whatever came into my mind kind of flow out,” said Roderick. “This mask is about creativity and being who you are and just doing what you want.”

“I wanted to do a bird theme with a broken wing to symbolize that everyone has bad days and we need to remember that,” said Allie.

The teachers were thrilled with the outcome of the collaboration, which for the Italian students is part of a larger lesson on travel. Students are working on organizing a trip to Venice in which they have to buy a ticket, book a hotel, decide on activities and more. During the last week of February, Velazquez’s students will take a virtual reality tour of Venice.

“They’re going to ride on a gondola and go to Carnevale,” Velazquez said. “Then the next day, we’re going to have a big Fat Tuesday party. The art students and the Italian students will have lunch together to celebrate.”

Students will bring their masks to the party and celebrate the last day of Carnevale together with music and food.

“It’s so wonderful to be able to collaborate,” Othmer said.