By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DEWITT – Steve Lucke’s final project as an art teacher took three years to complete with the help of his students. The “Peace of the Holy Spirit” sculpture that he designed was displayed in St. Joseph Parish’s gathering space through Pentecost.
The recently retired part-time art teacher of St. Joseph Catholic School said the administration, staff, students and community supported him through the three-year process.
Lucke taught art for 41 years overall, beginning at Andrew Community Schools and then Bellevue Community Schools in Iowa before retiring from the public school system. He taught for three years at St. Joseph’s. “I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to teach,” he said. “I’m going out on a high note and this sculpture represents what I hope, through my teaching, opened students’ eyes to — that they can do anything.”
The sculpture reflects a challenge to students to use their hearts, hands, minds and souls to accomplish what they can and want to do, he added. Inspiration for the sculpture came from reading a story about Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who at age 2 was inflicted with radiation poisoning from the blast of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
In 1955, at age 12, she developed leukemia. While hospitalized, she began making paper cranes through her knowledge of the art of origami. According to Japanese legend, cranes were thought to live 1,000 years, and a person’s wishes would come true with the creation of 1,000 paper cranes.
“Sadako wished to recover from her illness and for all people to live in peace. She died later that year despite completing over 1,000 cranes.”
Sadako’s older brother traveled the world distributing her cranes to different museums, schools and organizations. One of the last remaining cranes was delivered to New York City, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001.
“Our goal was to extend Sadako’s wish to our community and beyond. Pentecost celebrates the Holy Spirit’s decent on the apostles and the presentation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to them. One of those fruits is peace,” Lucke said. “We felt it very fitting that our sculpture, which is sunburst from the bottom up with red, orange, yellow and white (representing tongues of fire that appeared above the disciples) be presented on this holy Sunday of Pentecost.”
Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, art students in grades 4-8 helped make the cranes when they had free time at school or home. “We built about 100 birds in the spring of 2015.” The following school year, another group of students made paper cranes. The final paper cranes were made this year in preparation for the project’s completion. Plans called for 538 origami birds, but students made more than 600 in the various colors. “Many birds traveled home over the years. I’m sure we made more than 1,000 cranes in total,” Lucke said.
He built the framework for the sculpture earlier this year. Students in grades 3-4 worked about 100 hours this year tying paper clips at one-inch intervals on assorted string lengths from 6 feet to 13.5 feet. Assembly of the entire 14-foot sculpture involved all students in grades 3-8 clipping and stringing the origami cranes from May 23-25. Also, 200 lights were woven into the sculpture, which was hung in the gathering space through Pentecost.
“I am thrilled our students had the opportunity to create this ‘Peace of the Holy Spirit’ sculpture for our school and parish,” said Principal Sharon Roling. “The project is a perfect example of how we can use art to symbolize our faith.”
Lucke said that after Masses June 3-4 the peace cranes were “released” to parish members and visitors to take home. The remaining cranes will be placed in baskets for others to receive at later services and events.