Meridian Artist-in-Residence Creates Installations and Community

After twenty-four years in Falls Church City Public Schools, retired art teacher Marc Robarge wasn’t done just yet. This January, he returned to Meridian High School as the district’s first artist-in-residence. 

The residency came about when current art teachers Christina Leigh and Sarah Gurgo proposed the idea for a Falls Church Education Foundation Teacher Grant, which principal Valerie Hardy lauded as “truly revolutionary.” They chose Robarge, who had retired in June 2022, to be the recipient of the grant. 

“I’m grateful to be valued as an artist,” Robarge said. 

He set out building a curriculum that would center the districts’ values and invite collaboration across the school community. Robarge has conducted workshops with each homeroom class and held multiple staff workshops to create the design for the flagship work, Through the Looking Glass. 

The piece, a ceramic installation that takes inspiration from microscopic spores, bird murmurations and Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” will be completed this summer. 

“There is a strong connection to nature throughout,” Robarge said of the installation.

This week, Robarge and a team of twenty students have been installing a mural in the 5th floor collaborative space, dubbed the ‘airport lounge.’ The mural fits in with the floor’s yellow theme and is a “rhythmic, flowing piece.”

Robarge designed the residency to have students involved every step of the way. Leigh and Gurgo’s IB art students have contributed to the installations, as have non-art students who just wanted to volunteer their time.

He says funding from the NCEF and the support of Meridian administration has made his work possible, and given life to the bare walls of the newly built school. 

“Everyone always wanted art installations in the school,” Robarge said. 

While Robarge was creating Through the Looking Glass, two English teachers alerted him to a John Updike poem that uses bird murmuration imagery to convey connection with nature, with the concluding line of the poem referencing a scarf.

“Scarf-like flow was one of my initial inspirations for the installation so I thought it was perfect,” he says. “I wanted this to be a cross curricular project.”

Hardy says Robarge’s return has been “wonderful for our school community.” 

“Every single piece of feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive,” she said.