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Millvale art show to feature works of school art teachers

| Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Submitted | Pine Creek Journal
Pam Cifrulak and Judy Deer take in some of the art.
Submitted | Pine Creek Journal
Lynn Ratkovich and Monica McElwain examine the artwork on display.

Area teachers will take their art outside of the classroom and into the gallery with a special show to highlight art teachers as artists and the role art plays in public education.

“Significant and Sublime: The Critical Role of Art Teachers in Public Education” is a juried art show featuring more than 20 works by area public school art teachers, which will run through June 1 at PANZAgallery, in Millvale.

“Significant and Sublime” is the realization of an art show conceived two years ago by Rachel Klipa, a Spanish teacher at West Mifflin Area School District. Klipa decided to turn her concept into a reality while working on her art history degree at Carlow University.

“I wanted to show how important art is in helping students to learn,” Klipa said. “A lot of people don't understand how people make art. A lot of people think artists slap paint on a canvas. They don't understand the critical thinking skills that go into making good art work and how those skills transition into having students learn well.”

Art teachers from more than 10 local public school districts, including Mars Area, North Allegheny, Fox Chapel and Shaler Area, will have their work featured.

Klipa said Shaler Area will be the best represented with pieces from four art teachers: David Boyles, Chris Lisowski, Monica McElwain and Cecilia Petro.

“They were four really talented people,” Klipa said. “I think Shaler is probably doing something really good.”

Lisowski's painting “School Daze” is a return to creating artwork for his own pleasure and features a collection of images from eastern philosophy.

“I was a doodler in school and always got in trouble for drawing on stuff,” he said. “(This) is a reflection of time spent daydreaming in school and drawing on stuff.”

Lisowski chose his piece to submit because it is one of the few art works he created during his school lunch breaks and a good example of an art teacher “practicing what they preach.”

McElwain, a teacher at Shaler Area Elementary School, shows her art work three to four times per year and is excited to be in a show in her school's community.

Her piece, “Tiffany,” is a six-foot tall mixed media piece that combines a scanned photo of the “wrong side” of a magazine model cut out and the world McElwain created for the silhouette to live in.

“I think it's super important especially in these times of budget cuts and a lot of art programs being cut, it's good to showcase that it's important to have the arts in the school and look at public art school teachers as professionals,” McElwain said.

“Significant and Sublime” also has started a conversation among teachers as to the larger role art plays in educating students.

Klipa had each artist answer a series of questions to be included in the show about their artwork and the importance of art education during a time of increased focus on standardized tests.

“I think for me, my main goal is to get people asking more questions in how we educate students and how are we determining knowledge,” Klipa said. “I think a lot of teachers are feeling stressed about standardized tests. Those tests don't measure everything.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or

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