MONTPELIER — Montpelier High School will say farewell to longtime art teacher Barbara Austin-Hutchins with a lasting legacy, literally carved in stone with the help of a former student.  Austin-Hutchins, or "Barb," as she is affectionately known, leaves after 38 years at the school. Together with Sean Williams, who graduated from MHS in 2004, they are working on a monolithic, 10-foot tall statue, carved in Barre granite featuring the symbol of owls that are the basis of the school's mascot.  Both Austin-Hutchins and Williams characterized her departure as the end of an era for the school that they wanted to immortalize in a stone sculpture. It will be the first creative flourish people will see as they enter MHS, situated on the roundabout in the driveway. Models of carvings created by Williams that will embellish the façade of the monument will be on display at the school's annual art show Wednesday, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. A GoFundMe fundraiser has been created to help raise the $12,000 needed for the commissioned work.  Williams broke news of the project Monday in Principal Mike McRaith's weekly blog post. He paid tribute to Austin-Hutchins' service to students and characterized her departure as "graduating" with the class of 2018.  "Barb contacted me this spring to lead a collaborative effort to create a work of public art that exemplifies the phrase, 'life is short, art is long,'" Williams wrote. "As a Montpelier High School alumnus and someone who took art all through high school with Barb, I couldn't have been happier to offer my skills to a project with a sentiment that is central to my artistic practice of stone carving." Williams said he and Austin-Hutchins began brainstorming a project "with a modest budget," but after a visit by Austin-Hutchins to Williams' Barre sculpture studio to view existing stone inventory, they decided to "create something greater" than originally planned.  "We propose to create a monolithic sculpture featuring a classical carving of the great horned owl, known at MHS as the beloved school mascot, the Solon!" Williams said.  Williams went on to describe the creative work he had in mind, which would take three months to complete.  "The Solon would be perched high above the ground, looking out into the distance, emerging from a unique quarry remnant that stands 10 feet tall, with two sawn faces and two rough split faces... with the owl carved into the split face of the monolith, facing outward," Williams said.  "In a world that is always changing, students, future artists, and faculty will be greeted by an artwork that grounds them in the significance of coming to school each day," he added.  Williams said Austin-Hutchins' broad appreciation of all things artistic was inspiring as a student.  "Barb was really good at emphasizing the freedom of creativity to be productive," Williams said. "It was a really invaluable space, especially for me, someone who applied to art school and became a career artist."  Williams went on to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and transferred to Penn State University, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in art. He returned to work at Barre Sculpture Studio, owned by his father, Jerry Williams, for the past 32 years. "I'm like 'a chip off the old block,' as they say," Sean Williams said.  As a granite sculptor, Williams said he also wanted to add to Montpelier's sculptural offerings — which he said are limited to the war memorial, also at the school, and a sculpture of Our Lady of Fátima outside the Roman Catholic Church on Barre Street — despite the fact Barre's famous quarries were nearby. "It's kind of crazy there are only two granite sculptures in the city," Williams said.  Austin-Hutchins said she was honored and inspired to teach generations of students at the school and work on a fitting monument with a former student to celebrate the arts and the school.  "I usually like to do sculptures at the school, and I thought, 'who better than a past art student,' and he was willing. I went to his studio, and I was really pleased he would take on the project," Austin-Hutchins said. Principal Mike McRaith added of Austin-Hutchins: "She's incredible; she's an institution. She's brought vibrancy, energy, art and reflection to so many students and is a huge part of our school climate and culture."  Liz Swindell, a former intern and long-term substitute at the school, will succeed Austin-Hutchins in the new school year.  To contribute to the GoFundMe fundraising campaign, visit www.gofundme.com/life-is-short-art-is-long. 

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