Art dedication honors former Rock Bridge student

Thursday, December 20, 2007 | 9:52 p.m. CST; updated 5:29 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008
Marty Siddall, left, Mary Margaret Coffield, center, and Leandra Spangler engage in a short conversation minutes before the start of a ceremony in which Rock Bridge High School's Performing Arts Center dedicated a piece of artwork to Paige Siddall, a former student who died in a car accident in November 2006.

COLUMBIA — “As long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, so long lives this, and this gives to thee.”

With a trembling voice, Amanda Perry recited the 400-year-old verse in memory of her friend and classmate Paige Siddall at a sculpture dedication Thursday evening in Rock Bridge High School. The lines from Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18” are engraved on a plaque underneath the sculpture, created by Leandra Spangler at the behest of Rock Bridge theater teacher Mary Margaret Coffield and others.

“My colleagues and I wished to establish something as permanent as possible that would express the beauty of Paige and her appreciation of the fine arts,” Coffield said.

After Siddall’s fatal automobile accident in November 2006, her parents, Marty Siddall and Jody Walker, donated funds to the theater department to recognize the school’s positive effect on their daughter’s life. Coffield initiated a plan that would use the funds to construct a memorial work of art.

As Siddall’s teacher and mentor for three years, guiding her through theater classes, school plays and the tech crew, Coffield felt it was her responsibility to put $2,500 in donations to good use.

The piece, “Bedabbled with Dew,” is prominent in the lobby of the Rock Bridge Performing Arts Center. Spangler, of Bear Creek Paperworks, formed a moving cast sculpture intended to reflect Siddall’s peaceful and comforting personality. The piece stretches 9½ feet wide and 5 feet high, combining a simple metal rod with 33 wire-strung leaves cast from recycled paper.

Coffield is certain the artwork will affect students who never met Paige. “When kids are feeling stressed, they could go and sit with the piece and be comforted,” Coffield said. “Paige was the same way.”

Spangler had never before been asked to create such a large-scale piece and found it to be an exciting challenge. She said her decision to use leaves was based on the concept that deciduous trees annually come back to life and would represent the strength, renewal and length of Siddall’s life.

“I plan on it being in Rock Bridge for a long time,” Spangler said. “It’s built to last.” The sculpture’s name, “Bedabbled with Dew,” was borrowed from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Spangler hoped to acknowledge Siddall’s role as Helena in a Rock Bridge production of the play and even included tiny pieces of crystal on and around the leaves to give the appearance of dew.

About 70 people attended the dedication. Speeches and loving remarks were delivered by Siddall’s former classmates, her father, and Debby Froebel, who represented Siddall’s mother.

Since Siddall’s death, there have been several Columbia and even international donations and dedications in her name. Last December, Rock Bridge students participated in the Adopt-a-Village program to donate funds to the Haitian village Jodo in her name. More recently, Marty Siddall donated three trees, including a Missouri Yellowwood tree, and a memorial bench to Peace Park on MU’s campus.

As he saw the artwork for the first time, Marty Siddall explained his gratitude at seeing the sculpture so prominently located and lit.

“To see the free flowing nature of the piece reminds me of Paige,” he said.

More than a year after her death, he inspired his daughter’s friends with a sense of hope and closure.

“We can celebrate Paige’s life a little more,” he said, “and mourn her death a little less.”

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