How does a student get a ceiling tile?


Centennial Alumi Octavia Wingate's four ceiling tiles: for AP Drawing, AP Sculpture, AP Studio Art, and Art community service hours! Credit: Marjorie Hsu

Marjorie Hsu, Co-editor in Chief

Look up—where do those painted ceiling tiles come from? 

Nicole’s first ceiling tile for AP Studio Art during her sophomore year! Credit: Marjorie Hsu

Ceiling tiles are one of the artistic details that make Centennial unique and welcoming. It also shows a wonderful way some students have left their mark in the school during these last 23 years. 

Usually, certain art students are eligible to put a ceiling tile in Centennial’s hallways, and some teachers extend that opportunity to their students to put one in their classroom.

The specific art classes that allow students to have a ceiling tile are: Photo I to III or IV, AP Studio Art 2-D Design, AP Drawing, AP 3-D (Sculpture), Ceramic III and IV, and Drawing/Painting III and IV.

Art teacher John Riggins said, “When they get into Photo III they can do a black and white photo. For Photo IV, they can do a digital image in full color.” It’s not explicitly just for AP art classes because “for a student who has taken up to Photo IV, that means they’ve taken art for two and a half years. So, they’ve earned their right to have a ceiling tile,” he added. In addition, all tiles must meet the criteria of having the course name, year, and the student’s name. 

Senior Nicole Ganelin said, “When I got my first ceiling tile up there, I felt part of some kind of legacy. It was kind of like a smaller piece of a big monument.” She also said she’s always amazed seeing the decades’ collection of art as years ago there were art students just like her. She hopes in 2029 there will be a student looking at her ceiling tile just like she looks at others. 

Nicole Ganelin’s second ceiling tile from her junior year! Credit: Marjorie Hsu

The tiles vary in mixed media. Some have photos, paintings, stickers, or some sculptural elements. Certain styles accompany the class the student took. For instance, drawing students will usually draw themselves and photo kids tend to have pictures. “Students have different visions of how they want to present themselves,” Riggins added. 

Ganelin said that she likes designing a ceiling tile with elements that express who she is. She said, “I wrote my name in cursive both years I did a tile. And, I put up a nice photo of myself up there surrounded by plants and flowers because those are things that I like. So, when people look up, they’re not going to know you, but they’re going to be like ‘Oh, maybe she likes plants and likes to write in cursive,’ which I think is the goal: to show a tiny bit of yourself.”

Riggins said, “This is an idea I got from Chattahoochee High School. We started about our fourth year here at Centennial. There’s close to 500 of them up in the ceiling.” The collection first starts right outside his room and moves down to the main hall and to the lettered hallways. He also said, “I decided to do it here because it’s a way of students leaving part of themselves behind,” he added. 

Ganelin shared the same feeling and said the tiles are a great way to recognize the visual arts as “a lot of times, art students get overlooked by more outgoing classes like theatre and sports. And, they’re great, but I feel like that tiles serve as” a nice tribute to art students who spend a lot of time in creating, she said. 

Most of the reactions have been positive throughout the years, but some of the principals have envisioned a different visual for Centennial. Riggins said, “One of the principal wanted the kids to have a two foot by three foot section on the wall for them to do their paintings there. But, I said no because this is our tradition and we’ve already been doing this for ten years now. Those ceiling tiles have outlasted any of the murals painted on the walls because we’ve had several murals disappear over the years by being painted over.”

Certain pieces or sections encompass different stories. An interesting section are the ones going down the band hall as they “are all custom cut to fit into the ceiling, because that hall is a bit different,” Riggins said. “There’s a couple that makes me really sad because the students are now deceased. At least, a part of themselves are here,” he added. When he puts them up he said he’ll also try to group them based on who were friends that year. 

Along with distinct pieces, Centennial alumni Octavia Wingate is the only one to have four tiles that work together in one overall piece that can be seen when one enters the school through the carpool area. One piece even has a QR code that leads people to their Instagram. 

Unfortunately, not all the tiles that were once made have stayed. Riggins said he repaired some that suffered through water damage, and “We lost a few when they did the front construction of the front entrance, but I’m not sure which two or three disapeared.”

When asked of other opportunities students have to leave their mark on the school, Riggins said, “There’s plaques out in the lobby that are for star athletes. There’s also been some jerseys that’ve been retired for different students for the athletic programs. But, this is more for the visual arts than anything else.” He added that the names in the cafeteria where all the students that graduated in the first four full years of Centennial, and when it overflowed they started to paint them in the sky lights. However, after renovations in 2016, the names in the sky lights were painted over and never restored. 

Since Centennial intends to replace the air conditioning units this upcoming summer, Riggins said that Coach Burch “has assured me that the ceiling tiles will be protected and taken care of.” However, “I’m debating whether or not to put them up after the summer” as around 35 to 40 new ones will be put up after this year.

The writer’s ceiling tile! Credit: Marjorie Hsu

There’s also been graduated students who’ve visited to see their tiles years later. In overall, “it makes our school unique. And, it shows the individual merits of the students and the artwork they’ve created over the years. We’ll eventually run out of room, but that will be a good thing,” Riggins added.