GARY | The Gary Community School Corp. has developed a partnership with a New Orleans-based artist to become part of Bead Town.

Stephan Wanger, a German native, moved to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. As a tribute, he created an 8-foot high, 30-foot wide piece of art crafted out of recycled Mardi Gras beads. He is creating bead artwork and hopes his new "Bead Town" will break a record listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.

He is partnering with Gary public schools to introduce this new art form to students, which he says will also teach them history, math, geography and reading.

As part of Bead Town, there is an 8-foot high, 96-foot long beaded mosaic called "Life in the French Quarter." It will be made from more than 5 million recycled Mardi Gras beads in various colors and will include large beaded works of celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, the Jackson 5 and Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said, "Who knew millions of beads could turn into such breathtaking pieces of art?"

In the second phase, Gary students will be part of something called Home. It will feature an exhibit of homes of famous Gary residents.

Wanger said all students participating will be invited to create their own artworks out of recycled materials.

"Students can sell their completed artworks, and we hope to host an event in May 2016 where students can display their work to the community," he said.

Lighthouse College Prep Academy freshman Makela Bailey and Wirt-Emerson Visual and Performing Arts Academy sophomore Amber Johnson sat at a table together cutting beads. Both girls were excited to be working on the Main Street project.

"This is fun," Johnson said. "It's a different experience, and it takes a lot of patience."


Southlake County Reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.