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North Country School students design sea dragon

November 10, 2017
By AARON CERBONE - For the News ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Sparks fly, generators hum and metal is bent as seven North Country School students construct a sea dragon that will start to slither into downtown Saranac Lake this winter.

The class, a 3-D design and metal sculpture class, teaches skills, art and responsibility while producing rusty, metallic sculptures each year under the direction of teacher Larry Robjent.

The shop they work in is a cornucopia of scrap metal as discarded bolts, crutches and trampolines spill out of every drawer, rafter and corner.

Article Photos

Larry Robjent, left, runs a North Country School class where students learn to design, create and assemble metal sculptures. (From back left) Dylan, Soraya, James, David, Romina, Lander and June stand in front of the middle section of a sea dragon they are creating to be displayed on Woodruff St. in Saranac Lake.
(News photo — Aaron Cerbone)

All projects exclusively use reclaimed metal, giving unused material from the campus, junk yards and the local community a new, artistic purpose.

"It's amazing in a facility this big, just the stuff that kind of moves on or people get rid of," Robjent said.

While many other sculptures created in Robjent's class can be seen throughout the school's 225-acre campus, the three-piece sea dragon, measuring 45 feet long, was commissioned by Saranac Laker Bill Domenico for the lawn outside his electrical contracting business at 18-22 Woodruff St., between Broadway and Church streets.

Domenico has subcontracted at the school for five years and after seeing the construction and end result of several sculptures in the past, wanted to introduce the student's work to a larger audience and spice up a empty spot on his side lawn.

With students building and designing the sculpture, and Domenico's 6-year-old and 9-year-old sons pitching the idea of creating a monstrous sea dragon, the project is truly in the children's hands.

The 7-foot-tall sea serpent is planned to have a hollow, rotating head large enough to stand inside, lighting (done by Domenico, of course) and a plaque celebrating the work the students put into the installation.

"Those kids are giving something really unique and inspiring to the community," Jodi Domenico said. "I think that we're just kind of the vessel for them to get it out there."

Robjent instructs and assists his students when needed but mostly grants the 8th- and 9th-graders responsibility over the project.

The kids enter the workshop at 2:15 p.m. and immediately set to work, cutting, shaping and attaching metal plates serving as scales running up the serpent's spine. They deftly work plasma cutters, turn cranks to bend metal sheets and bolt scales onto the sea dragon body, working with tools they learned how to safely use early in the school year.

The seven students in the class represent the four countries of Korea, Mexico, China and the U.S.

They are working with a rough idea of what the end product will look like but are using their own creative ideas on how to design, form and construct the imposing sea serpent.

"It's really empowering them to come up with different ideas, and on the fly, make them happen," Robjent said. "To be able to problem-solve, to be able to use what you have to create, to be working with your peers ... I think it's a huge thing for dealing with everyday problems."

Robjent said he views the class as working on a collaborative art project with his friends, keeping the kids safe and efficient as they independently craft their sculpture.

"This is like the most interesting class in the whole school," eighth grader James said. (The school requested that student's last names are not be used.)

As they build, they are surrounded by the props, costumes and art previously wrought in the shop. A giant autonomous hand used in last year's play looms in the shed's rafters, a racing snail constructed from a scooter and plywood sits on a shelf and among the many work benches and table saws, swords and armor hang decoratively.

In order to give the latest product of the shop the most exposure, Domineco, who sits on the planning board, has asked the board for a variance to light it and move it close enough to the sidewalk that it will be visible from Broadway and Church streets.

He has recused himself from the vote when the board makes a decision Nov. 7.

The Domenicos said they want to give the students at the North Country School recognition for their hard work and bring an outlandish, creative creature to town.

"I hope it's just something that's fun and interesting and unique and I think that kind of vibes with Saranac Lake in general," Jodi said. "I don't know of any other community that has a sea serpent in the middle of town."



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