Crestview seventh-grader Dominguez designs, crafts commissioned stained glass panels for school

Crestview Middle School student Abimael Dominguez (left) receives instruction from art teacher Liesl Haupert on the next step in constructing a stained glass panel during class on Wednesday, Feb. 15. The panel is one of three that will be displayed in the foyer and office area of the school.
Crestview Middle School student Abimael Dominguez (left) receives instruction from art teacher Liesl Haupert on the next step in constructing a stained glass panel during class on Wednesday, Feb. 15. The panel is one of three that will be displayed in the foyer and office area of the school. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published Feb. 20, 2017.

In Liesl Haupert’s eighth-grade morning art class at Crestview Middle School, a seventh-grader sits quietly off to one side, wielding a soldering pen on his project while the rest of the class is using pencils.

Abimael Dominguez, 13, is invested in a project involving three commissioned stained-glass panels that will be used to fill in holes in the school’s foyer and office ceilings that once contained TV monitors. Abi, as he is known, is not only working to construct the panels, but he is also the designer of the project.

But the design is the easy part, at least for Dominguez, already an experienced artist in a variety of media. The challenge is in bringing those ideas to life.

“We get tinted glass, and we have to cut it into individual pieces, so they all fit together like a puzzle,” he explains. “Then we have to solder them, in like a welding process. The first layer of solder must be put on backwards, when all the glass is put upside-down, and then you have to flip it over and do it to the same side in the front.”

Sounds easy, right? But it is painstaking work, not only for Dominguez, but about 80 to 100 additional students who helped cut glass and piece the puzzles together.

The first of the 30 by 30-inch panels depicts Crestview’s cougar mascot with a huge paw print, framed in the school’s colors of red and royal blue. Two other panels will depict academics and the arts. They will be encased in zinc metal frames and hung by chains.

Haupert explains that the project fulfilled a need at the school — that of filling in the TV holes — with perfect timing, after she was gifted with some valuable supplies as well as a grant to fund additional supplies and equipment for the task.

“I got a message one day from a retired college professor that they had some stained glass supplies they were looking to donate to a school,” she recalls. “I immediately called. The nicest couple in the world had just moved to Warren a few months earlier. I went out and met with them several times. She gave me three boxes of stained glass worth hundreds of dollars.”

That, along with a grant of nearly $500 from the Huntington County Community Foundation and additional school funds, provided the tangible materials to make Dominguez’s conception a reality.

He says he had to come up with a simple design that incorporates easily-recognizable shapes, such as a beaker flask and a multiplication sign for the academic panel.

“It’s very difficult to make a lot of detail in stained glass,” he says. “Cutting the glass can just crack it or just break it. Every little thing can just destroy the whole project.”

Dominguez is doing most of the copper foil and soldering work, while the eighth-grade art students mainly cut the glass shapes. Haupert says the work requires lots of neatness and being very careful, especially when soldering the panel’s glass pieces together.

“Once we finish soldering this first piece, we’ll start cutting glass on the second one,” she says. “In my other classes, I pull two or three students back with me at a time, and they help me cut glass. I hope to have half of the students help to cut glass by the end of the year.”

However, Dominguez, who is doing most of the soldering, is not daunted by the challenge. He has had experience creating many different types of art, including drawing, painting and airbrush. One of his paintings hangs in Spyro’s Pancake House in Fort Wayne. But he says he wants a career after college as a designer, possibly in automotive engineering.

The panels that will grace Crestview will be enjoyed by students, their families and the school’s staff for years to come. To Dominguez, it’s tantamount to leaving behind a lasting legacy.

“It feels great. It gives me something to work on, something special — something where I can just put my name up there and say, ‘I did that,’” he says. “If I see something that’s on the school and it stays there for a while, I can say, ‘I put a lot of effort into it, I worked hard to put that there, and I made a difference in the school.’”