All year, Victoria Mendenhall and her art students have been steadily working towards their first ever school-wide art exhibition. Every one of Gilchrist Elementary School’s 920 students were going to be represented in the show and many of them had planned to serve as docents, guiding family and friends through the exhibit.
There were plans for a glow-in-the-dark gallery and other fun surprises but when the pandemic hit, all those plans changed.
Mendenhall and her students were understandably disappointed when it became clear they could not move forward with a physical exhibit. Instead, Mendenhall did what all good art teachers do, she got creative. She digitally scanned nearly 1,000 individual pieces of student artwork and uploaded them to the school’s website, creating an online exhibit. She also recorded videos that showcased the artistic process for each project.
“It was a huge hit,” Mendenhall said. “I received feedback from both parents and students. They were all so happy with the result, as was I.”
One of those parents was Lindsay Durrenberger. Her son Dax Durrenberger just completed the second grade and his multi-media artwork features a folk art inspired floral bouquet. Seeing his creativity displayed in this way was moving to Durrenberger, who shared “Dax's beautiful artwork brought tears to my eyes.”
For this project, Mendenhall encouraged Dax and his second-grade classmates to think about elements of art including pattern and line while practicing a resist painting technique for the background. Because students had a wide variety of materials to choose from, the resulting artworks are unique and highlight the students’ own personal taste and aesthetic preferences.
Fourth-graders were tasked with creating portraits inspired by Sandra Silberzweig, a contemporary Canadian painter. Silberzweig has a neurological condition called synesthesia where the stimulation of one sense activates another unrelated sense. In Silberzweig’s case, visual art is processed in her mind's eye, then experienced on all sensory levels; sound, sight, touch, smell, and taste. She is attracted to colorful images and Mendenhall challenged her students to make bold color choices in their portraits.
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