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Harries, Mags

Lechmere/East Cambridge, Sculpture

Mags Harries
Longfellow School

Title: Gateway 
Date: 1983 
Materials: Ash, enamel, incandescent lights 
Dimensions: 9' 8" x 10' x 5'

"The scale [of Gateway] is to remind grown-ups of how big everything looked when they were small, and to suggest an Alice-in-Wonderland-like magic to children." - Mags Harries

Seeing and experiencing

Why is this sculpture called Gateway? In Harries's words, "I responded negatively to the institutional sameness of all the school corridors. I wished in this piece to create a memorable entrance that bridged architecture and furniture." The school's principal calls it "The Learning Bridge." Think about these descriptions as you walk through and stand under it. Do you think this piece transforms the school's interior?

Coming down the hallway you may have momentarily felt like you stepped into the wrong place. What is surprising about this work? How does the element of surprise make you look at things with a new eye?

This piece is in a school, so you might think that it represents a desk. Does it? What makes this piece different than the desks you typically find in a school? What are the objects on top? Why is the drawer open?

A cabinetmaker helped Harries build the sculpture. As you stand under the piece, look at its construction. The different parts have been carefully joined together like a puzzle. This construction method is called "joinery," and learning it takes both skill and practice. Why did Harries choose to showcase such craftsmanship in a school setting?

What does this sculpture say about the relationship between imagination and learning?


What you will need: 
Sketchpad or paper, pen or pencil.

Draw the person who sits at this desk/table.

If you were going to add an object to Harries's piece what would it be? For example, you could make a giant book or a pair of sneakers left behind by the owner. Whatever you make will be oversized. What materials would you use?



What you will need: 
Sketchpad or notebook, pens, pencils or crayons.

Let your imagination run wild. Write a story inspired by the Longfellow School sculpture. Who might be the owner of this desk or table? Where is he or she? Does he or she only come here at night? What is inside the drawer? In the cup? Does the desk owner leave traces of his/her presence in other places around the school?

Begin your story with, "I just saw the strangest thing!" Write as much as you can for 15 minutes. Write spontaneously, without editing. The next day, write for another 15 minutes, adding another chapter to the story. Continue this exercise for a whole week.

Three demensional
What you will need: 
Lincoln Logs, building materials (twigs, scraps of wood, cardboard), string, scissors.

Examine the desks and tables around your house. Can you figure out how they were constructed?

Think about how Harries put together her piece. If you have Lincoln Logs, use them to construct a table. You don't need glue or nails to hold it together! Experiment with other materials. Using the string and a mix of other materials (the wood and cardboard), create a sturdy table or desk. Think carefully about how to make the object stand solidly.