Students turn school into an art gallery

Colorful artwork on display at Gastineau Elementary School

Posted: Sunday, January 21, 2007

How do you motivate a temperamental artist at Gastineau Elementary School? Try a juice box.

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On Friday, GES had its own Gallery Walk. Students and teachers turned the school into an art gallery complete with a violinist, finger food and the occasional juice box.

During the past year, Gastineau has made a concerted effort to introduce art into the curriculum. The teaching staff at the school has used several programs to make art more accessible to the children. The project strives to give students a way to appreciate and critique art and also uses art as a way to reinforce other subjects such as math, science and social studies.

"Things have really changed (in society). We're really into visual imagery," said Karen Larson, a kindergarten teacher and art liaison. "The kids are developing an aesthetic sense."

The artworks varied from drawings of basic shapes found in Tlingit art to detailed geographic mosaics depicting self-portraits.

Pointing to a depiction of migrating salmon, Larson said children learn about the fish's life cycle in science class.

"You get that cross-over, and it deepens their understanding."

Students of all ages showed up at the evening event. Some children meandered slowly though the halls. Others, wide-eyed and full of energy, grabbed their parents' hands and bolted down the hallway to their paintings.

Students are learning not only the techniques, but also the history of art. They're learning not only about the Western masters, but also about Native Alaskan art as well.

"I think it's good. There's a good mix and there's lot's of cultural Alaskan relevance," said Joe Nelson, a parent of a GES second-grader.

Wandering through the halls with his friends, fifth-grader Calvin Jordan pointed to a mosaic he made of himself. The crayon depiction is based on some of Pablo Picasso's work. It took Calvin five days to complete the drawing. Vincent van Gogh has become the boy's favorite artist.

"His paintings were abstract, and I like that," Jordan said.

Grant Burns, another fifth-grader, said he liked Picasso. He talked about the difference between the artist's Blue and Rose periods.

"He had different paintings at different times," Burns said.

Angela Lunda, principal of GES, said the arts program has been extremely important. It allows the children to weave together different parts of the curriculum and "hooks" the student's interest.

"It's been really energizing for the kids and students as well," she said. "I think they've all been fabulous."

• Will Morris can be reached at

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