BANGOR — Art is messy.
That rather simple lesson was driven home to the third graders at Fruit Street School on the day on their recent Living Art Gallery presentation.
The event marked the culmination of a project which began six weeks ago.
Art teacher Wendy Libby admitted that she adapted the creative idea that had originally been done by a fifth-grade class at Bangor Christian School last year.
“I did not know if my third graders were mature enough to take it on,” Libby recalled. “They far exceeded anything that I thought this age group would be capable of, not just one class of students, but all four of my third-grade classes, and not just a few students in each room but all students.”
The essence of the assignment: learn from the masters. Libby began by collecting 8-by-10 reproductions of works by around 35 Master artists, and the classes viewed and discussed the styles and techniques of the diverse work, comparing similarities and differences.
Students were paired off, then the groups selected the top three or four works that they would like to paint. For three sessions, the students, using tempera, created 18-by-24-inch paintings based on their selected reproductions, working to match the colors and textures that the artist had used.
“The teamwork was amazing,” Libby said. “The students were so excited there was never any arguing or dissatisfaction. They exclaimed they felt like real artists. The pride they felt contributed to the atmosphere. They were always on task with quiet conversation about what they were doing.”
After creating the paintings, the students moved on to the next phase: researching their artists, mostly with books that were purchased through an art fundraiser held last year. Other libraries contributed the rest of the materials needed.
The final part of this project came on March 8, when the Living Art Gallery came to life.
Simply put, one of each pair would portray the artist, while the other would become part of the painting.
A head-size hole was cut in each painting. A group of a dozen volunteers sat opposite the kids, painting their young faces to blend into the painting, with 30-something students readied in about a half-hour.
Then came a dry run. The students sat in four circles, facing outward, as the school’s second-graders were herded into the gym, to take in the presentations.
Last were the parents. As cameras flashed, the gym got louder and louder as excitement built to a fever pitch. It’s unlikely that many of the visitors could hear well enough to absorb the students’ hard-earned knowledge, but a fun time was had by all.
Libby was pleased with the results.
“The success of the lesson was marked by the sustained excitement and interest the students exhibited in the elongated project,” she said. “They pushed the limits, and execution was pleasurable. The students’ skills and abilities were tested and carried out to their fullest.”