Alpha School students bring artists, art to life at Talking Art Museum
By Natalie Beneviat
Published: Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:54 p.m.
Walt Disney, Mary Cassatt and Andy Warhol were some of the big names visiting Providence Heights Alpha School in McCandless recently, as students portrayed their favorite artists as part of the school's annual Talking Art Museum.
Over a five-week period, fifth-graders worked in pairs as they selected an artist to research and then studied that artist's work, Alpha School art teacher Jennifer Brown-Clair said.
At the Talking Art Museum presentation, one student dressed in costume and played the part of the artist, and the other became a painting, which the students recreated for the presentation.
After getting the idea from an article she read years ago, Brown-Clair, who has been teaching art at the school for three years, said the students seem to really enjoy it.
“I was a little nervous at first because it's so involved. But they really got into it, so it was a big hit,” said Brown-Clair, 43, of Franklin Park.
Parents of the art students were invited to the attend the event, as each pair performed their parts for students in other grades.
Artist Mary Cassatt, originally from the former Allegheny City, now Pittsburgh's North Side, was selected by Sarah Pritchard of Franklin Park and Grace Lunak of Wexford. They chose to use the painting “Sara with Her Dog.” While Grace played the part of Cassatt, Sarah became “Sara,” the subject of the painting.
Students were to select a piece of artwork that had a person in the painting. They then cut a hole where the subject's head would be to place their own through it in order to wear and become the painting.
Grace, 11, said she and Sarah like Cassatt because of the colors and texture of the work.
“And we thought the painting was really pretty,” said Sarah, 10. “We had to mix a lot of color to get (it) right.”
Walt Disney was played by Matthew Soller, 10, of Sewickley, and Michael DiMarsico, 10, of Wexford, portrayed Mickey Mouse in a cel painting from the film “Fantasia.” As Disney, Matthew explained that a cel is a still image from an animation.
Leonardo da Vinci was chosen by Hollie Walters,10, of Gibsonia, and Sarah Foody, 11, of Franklin Park. While Sarah Foody dressed up as and played the part of da Vinci, donning a long gray beard, Hollie was the “Mona Lisa.”
Hollie said she enjoyed being able to work with her friend on the project and learning about the artist. And Sarah Foody, who likes to draw and doodle, said this project made her even more interested in art.
Max Kress, 10, played the part of Johannes Vermeer and Anthony Warda, 10, was the painter's “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”
To prepare for the fifth-grade project, Brown-Clair had students read about the artist, and Max, of McCandless, said he enjoyed reading the art-mystery book “Chasing Vermeer,” so that's why he chose this artist.
“This is one of my favorite paintings,” said Anthony, of Cranberry, who also enjoyed researching the artist.
Pop artist and Pittsburgh native Andy Warhol was played by John Mitchell, 10, of Gibsonia, and Chip Strano, 10, of Franklin Park, became a dollar from the artwork “Fifteen One Dollar Bills.”
Both John, who is a self-proclaimed “good 3-D drawer,” and Chip said they want to learn more about pop art after researching Warhol.
Other fans of pop art were Lilly Stokes, 10, of Pine Township, and Maggie Storti, 10, of Cranberry, as they researched Roy Lichtenstein, another famous American pop artist.
They both said they like the artist's use of primary colors and Ben-Day dots, which are tiny dots used to make an image.
“We love the Ben-Day dots because we think they are so cute and how they come out (to an image),” said Maggie, who portrayed the work “Girl With Ball.”
“It was a challenge but it was fun.”
Lilly, who portrayed Lichtenstein, said the project increased her interest in art.
“I always wanted to be an artist but this makes me really want to be an artist,” she said.
John and Jennifer Foody attended the event to watch their daughter Sarah play da Vinci.
“It makes art alive for the kids,” said John. “We're very proud of her.”
Jennifer Foody said this is the kind of project that goes beyond art, including public speaking and learning about history.
“It's just not art class,” she said.
Natalie Beneviat is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
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