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ST. JOHN — A circular forest of poles has sprouted on a trapezoid-shaped bit of land near the Lake Central High School football field, where an ever-changing array of flags and ribbons are the first phase of an effort by art teacher Paul Volk to incorporate art into the school campus.

What Volk calls a perpetual sculpture garden started last fall to fly the school colors for homecoming. A total of 34 wooden poles were placed in a circular pattern and a 35th pole was placed about 25 feet away in one corner of the sculpture garden. A park bench in the center of the circle pattern provides a place for people to sit and contemplate the overall effect.

"The purpose of the perpetual sculpture garden is to bring students, faculty and the community together," Volk said.

When homecoming week ended, the art classes created a large pink breast cancer ribbon to honor those fighting the disease. The founder of the Northwest Indiana Cancer Kids Foundation saw the display in October and encouraged Volk to do gold ribbons this September to raise awareness of childhood cancer.

The concept grew in April when Lake Central students made several large puzzle pieces in recognition of Autism Awareness Month. Assembled, the pieces formed a puzzle 9 feet high. They also made smaller versions of the puzzle pieces and sold them as earrings and key chains during lunch hour. The effort raised enough money to give out two scholarships.

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This school year the garden has been improved. The original 2-by-2-inch, 10-foot poles, which had to be driven into the ground, were replaced by 1-1/2-inch diameter PVC pipes, and holders were placed in the ground for mounting them. Mulch was placed around the area and a local merchant is providing stone for a walkway.

The poles are painted the same colors as the ribbons, and, following the childhood cancer/homecoming displays in September and the return of the breast cancer awareness ribbons in October, November will see the garden honoring diabetes awareness and veterans.

In March, blue ribbons will recognize developmental disabilities awareness, and April will see a return of the autism awareness display. The final tribute in May will be for mental health awareness and Memorial Day. The poles are taken down over the winter and during the summer recess, but Volk is planning other artwork inside and outside the school for those months.

For Veterans Day, he also wants to display images on the walls of those with connections to the school who died in America's wars, including a smaller version of the Vietnam Wall for the five from Lake Central who died in that war. The display would also include biographical information about each person pictured.

Other displays still in the planning stages would address domestic violence and bullying and other issues yet to be determined.

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