Art Watch: Wall to wall beauty in area schools

At the end of the school year, several Chester County schools completed huge beautification art projects that have transformed areas of their school environments into vibrant, joyful creative spaces. Greenwood Elementary School, in Kennett Square, just finished a large mosaic mural project for their lobby entrance, headed by Elementary Art Teacher Meghan Bergman.

A K-5 teacher, as well as an accomplished ceramic artist, Meghan began the mural in March, working with over 600 students and 80 faculty to create an inventive, beautiful 3 foot by 20 foot mural. The mosaic spells out "Greenwood Elementary" and contains over 1000 hand crafted ceramic elements created by the students. Each piece is a brightly colored rendition of an object, of the student's choosing. Meghan describes the mosaic as a "Rainbow I Spy" which inspires the viewer to search for different objects, like an old-fashioned "I Spy" game.  The end result is delightful, colorful and imaginative, just like the students at the school.

Greenwood Elementary School Mural

Greenwood Elementary School Mural

The favorite part about the project for Meghan was to see the students' reaction to the unfolding work over time. "I would be up there on the scaffolding each day and it would be so great to hear their reactions! How proud they are of their work. It really has become a visual place of pride that makes them so happy and proud of being at their school." She also was excited to see the students understand the process of such a project; that these things take time, and that it is worth the effort!

In Charles F. Patton Middle School in Kennett Square, the final mural was completed this week that ends a two year project of beautification for their cafeteria area. Meeting the challenge of drab white walls, a group of parents and the PTO, asked the students for their input on a theme to enliven their cafeteria space. The overwhelming vote was for a 1950s style café theme, and a team of three mothers Julianne Ruocco, Jeannette Kurkewicz and JoAnn Cona set to work on the transformation with painted murals and framed records to create a fun environment. The walls leading to the cafeteria were also stark white, which inspired Jeannette Kurkewicz and JoAnn Cona to create the "Black and White Photo Wall Project".

For this project, the middle school students went around the school taking photographs of objects and scenes that inspired them. The images were framed and the walls were then filled with a student-made compelling photographic landscape of images that showed the school experience through the student's eyes.   The final part of this two year, three-part initiative, was completed two weeks ago.

Lele Galer stands in front of Sun Mural at Patton Middle School

Lele Galer stands in front of Sun Mural at Patton Middle School

At the request of Jeannette Kurkewicz, artist Lele Galer completed two painted murals to brighten up a wall adjacent to the cafeteria. The "Sun Mural"is the 50th and last mural project that Lele has completed in the Unionville Chadds Ford School District, and she continues to head up the Art and Action program in the 4 elementary schools which she designed and has taught for 15 years.

The two canvas mural are copies of two elements of a Marc Chagall backdrop that he created for a Russian opera, that is today hanging at the entrance of The Philadelphia Museum of Art. The original painting has simplified, abstracted, enormous suns that hang in the sky above a very small person in a boat. The two suns signify the period of many days and nights that the boat traveler took to reach his home.

Lele writes, "Chagall's colors were very bright and cheerful, and I have always loved that mural. To incorporate those two suns in the hallway brings color and light to the space and hopefully symbolizes the journey that the students take, one day to the next, learning and growing in middle school."

In the 4 elementary school in the Unionville Chadds Ford School District, the Art in Action Program integrates art history/art appreciation classes with a hands-on mural/beautification project that the students and parents create each year in the schools. Every year, Art in Action brings a different art theme, for a two day art program in the art classes K-5.  This past year the theme was "American Art-American Vision" where artists including Winslow Homer, N C Wyeth, Jackson Pollock and Alexander Calder were introduced to the students, followed by hands on projects at each of the schools that were inspired by art works from that year's theme.

Katee Boyle, artist and parent volunteer for Art in Action at Pocopson Elementary, has helped to create incredible works of art for the hallways with the students and parents at the school.

Andy Warhol mural at Pocopson Elementary School

Andy Warhol mural at Pocopson Elementary School

Katee says "We are all so honored and so fortunate to have this great supplemental art program in the schools. The kids get so excited and engaged talking about the art and making the art pieces - it is really a thrill to be a part of this.  I look forward to it every year!" Twenty or more parents in each school work with the students and art teachers to teach the art appreciation class and also work with the students on the larger art project. Every school is brimming with many year's worth of colorful, imaginative works of art that the students, parents, teachers and staff take great pride in. The school PTOs provide financial support for the beautification projects and next year's theme is "Impressionism-The Effects of Light".  Parent signups for Art in Action are in the Fall, and no expertise or background is needed; you just have to love working with the students! If your school would like to learn about incorporating Art in Action for free, please contact Lele Galer at galerfamily@comcast.net.

 

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About Lele Galer

Lele Galer is an artist who has chaired numerous art shows, taught art history and studio art, public art and has chaired, written and taught the Art in Action Art Appreciation series for the UCFD schools for the past 12 years. She worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and wrote for the Associated Press in Rome. She has been dedicated to Art History and art education for most of her adult life. Lele and her husband Brad own Galer Estate Winery in Kennett Square.

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