Area Students Engage In Visual Arts At Chautauqua Institution

Students from Tom McFall’s fifth-grade class sketch their favorite landscape portrait at the Strohl Art Center in the Chautauqua Institution. P-J photo by Remington Whitcomb

CHAUTAUQUA — Art imitates life, as the saying goes. But for those who are exposed at a young enough age, sometimes art can become life.

On Monday, Chautauqua Lake students from Tom McFall’s fifth-grade class participated in a field trip to the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution galleries. As part of the trip, the students visited the Fowler-Kellogg and Strohl art centers, as well as the Melvin Johnson Sculpture Center.

“For the third summer in a row, we open our visual art galleries an entire week early for students and field trips,” Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president and director of programming, said. “Our goal is to be an arts education resource for county schools and organizations. We value youth in the area so much that we make them the first invited guests into the galleries every year.”

In addition to VACI tours and field trips, the Institution also held a young playwrights’ project, which included over 600 students from around the area. The students watched the Chautauqua Theater Company produce and present plays that third and fourth graders in the county wrote.

“The 14 plays that were selected to be produced today were selected from a pool of 403 submitted works,” Moore said. “So it’s mostly about the process of becoming a playwright.

“We are recommitting in a very proactive way,” Moore continued. “We do everything we can to fulfill the part of our strategic plan regarding extending our programming beyond our gates and beyond our (nine-week season).”

In a similar theme, the Institution just concluded a program called “Battle of the Books,” where 23 schools participated with a team of five students. The battle was a literary contest that quizzed the students on 10 books that they read over the course of four months.

During the field trip, the students learned about aspects of art such as: what makes a landscape, what is a horizon line, what are some common mediums for artistic expression and how to interpret art.

While there were many students that compared the art they saw to other tangible items, a few related a more abstract concept to what they saw, such as emotion.

“Our elementary art teacher does a phenomenal job in teaching the many things art can represent,” McFall said. “It allows the students to see and create their own art projects and interpretations, and gives them an appreciation for what art is. A trip like this really reinforces all they are taught (at school) and plants an interest in them for art at a young age.”

But a few students arrived at the VACI with an appreciation in the arts already established, whether they knew it or not.

“The arts give students a different entry points into knowledge, and it helps them make connections,” Moore said. “One of our contemporary sculptors that makes barns out of used and discarded metal had a piece that caught one student’s eye today. That student saw some of the metal in one of the sculptures and knew the tractor parts that composed that panel in the sculpture. He said he even knew the bolts that fit into that panel.

“When something like that happens, it’s so exciting to see (students) realize that art is not something foreign, or for other people. Art is for us and expresses the things in our life.”

Other schools that have or will participate in the VACI Gallery tour field trips are: Panama Central School, grade four; Clymer Central School, grades five and six; and Chautauqua Lake Central School, grade seven.


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