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Student replicas of masterpieces by Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Frida Kahlo and Pablo Picasso will adorn the halls at Toano Middle School Wednesday night, transporting students, parents and community members to the school’s own Musée du Louvre.
This was not the plan when world language teachers Avory Harman-Link, Anne Mapp and Enid Reed applied for and received a $1,426 Innovative Learning Grant from the WJCC Schools Foundation.
Rather, it was their students’ enthusiasm for the grant project – traveling exhibits of the four artists’ work displayed at the school – that inspired a new assignment.
“I think these kids really got into their art and want to show the community what they can do,” Harman-Link said.
Each week in February, artwork by Monet, Degas, Kahlo or Picasso was displayed on a large wall panel along with information about the artist. All students could see the panels, but the world language students would spend class time learning about the artists, analyzing the paintings and practicing each artist’s techniques.
“[The exhibit] is something out-of-the-box to allow students to virtually travel and everyone is part of the language,” Reed said, noting it engaged both confident and shy language learners.
In response to the students’ excitement, the teachers asked them to replicate a work from one of the four artists or create an original piece in the style of the artist they liked most.
“It gave us an interactive way to learn about Spanish history and how the artists themselves coped with what was going on the time periods,” said eighth-grade Spanish student Joey Picataggi, who replicated Picasso’s “Asleep.”
Degas was Rebecca Turner’s favorite artist to learn about – she said the dancers’ movement was “pretty cool” – but it was Monet’s “Branch from a Lemon Tree” that she decided to replicate in his pointillism style.
The eighth-grade French student said she tried tracing the piece before finding success painting it freehand. She said she found it to be a fun and creative process overall.
“You don’t always paint a straight line. You paint dots,” Turner said of pointillism. “It took a really long time. … I definitely learned from my mistakes.”
Emily Lang, an eighth-grade Spanish student, created a piece inspired by Picasso’s cubism. She said learning about the artists, their lives and their culture “put meaning behind” the language she is learning and the art she created.
“I felt like I was painting with some meaning,” Lang said. “Now there’s something behind it besides, ‘I wanted to paint shapes.’”
Angel Alcala, also an eighth-grade Spanish student, said when he completed his piece – a replica of one of Picasso’s Dora Maar portraits – he said he felt like Picasso himself must have in that moment.
“That is one of the biggest things we want to do in world language – connect to the culture, connect to the language and make it their own,” Harman-Link said.
Toano is pulling out all the stops to transform the halls into a “Louvre on the Move” on Wednesday night. The school’s orchestra will play and light refreshments will be served.
Students will guide visitors through the gallery as docents. So many students volunteered to be docents they had to be interviewed for the job, Harman-Link said.
Prima Subramaniam, an eighth-grade French student, said people should visit the gallery because it would be “a cool way” to learn about French, Spanish and Mexican cultures.
“We live in America and not a lot of people get to experience this kind of artwork,” Subramaniam said.
Principal Tracey Jones said the students’ excitement about the gallery makes her excited, describing the event as a unique way to see students take pride in their work.
Turner said it is particularly important to her that parents come to the gallery.
“Some parents don’t know what their kids are capable of,” Turner said. “I think it’s a good chance to let kids shine.”