Corrections or additions?
This article by Pat Summers was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on September 8, 1999. All rights reserved.
Back to School & Art
It used to be that back to school meant new plaid jumpers
and bookbags, freshly-sharpened pencils and soap erasers. Today it’s
more like designer clothes and backpacks, along with new safety rules
and protective devices — surveillance cameras, metal detectors,
and their ominous ilk. Happily, though, overarching the clothes, the
supplies, and the security measures, there’s also the perennial anticipation
of the new — friends, teachers, maybe even a new building, as
well as new subjects, clubs, teams: enriching experiences and an ever-widening
At some independent elementary and secondary schools in the area,
The return to the classroom also means a return to the school art
gallery, where — whether students know it or not — they can
expect a wide variety of high quality, professional art to be on view
throughout the year. And that art, which can range from Rembrandt’s
etchings to Cindy Sherman’s movie stills, is likely to be a significant
part of the school curriculum, so they will do much more with it than
merely walk past it or idly look at it.
And the "gallery" might extend beyond building walls —
as it does at Princeton’s Chapin School, where eight large-scale sculptures
of granite, wood, or bronze are installed around the campus. On loan
for the academic year from Lambertville sculptor Harry Gordon, the
pieces will be the subject of a public reception and sculpture walk
on Sunday afternoon, September 12. Already, though, some of the works
are visible from the road that runs in front of the school, and the
bronze "Popper" has already become a favorite of students,
who climb and nestle in its curvy amplitude.
Inside the school, Susan A. Cook curates six to eight exhibitions
a year in gallery space that was created several years ago by the
addition of a new wing. Cook, a school parent and freelance photographer,
was also the visionary behind the gallery. Believing that contacts
with professional artists help children tap into their own creativity,
she set out, she explains, to create "a comfort zone where kids
could learn that artists and art are approachable." Cook’s contract
with every artist who shows at Chapin calls for gallery talks or demonstrations
of some kind for all 300 or some number of its pre-kindergarten through
This year’s exhibition schedule starts with wood engravings by Michelle
M. Post. Then, picking up where Lambertville’s lamented Rivergate
Books left off with its closing this summer, Chapin will showcase
the work of about a half-dozen children’s book illustrators between
October 13 and November 12, with a reception and book-signing on opening
day. A cooperative arrangement with Barnes & Noble is one further
element prompting Cook to "hope this may grow into a traditional
community affair." Others artists booked this year are Rhoda Isaacs
(mixed media), Ken McIndoe (paintings), and John King (animal photography).
Each year all Chapin students study one "curriculum
country" — Greece last year, and Russia coming up for 1999-2000.
Cook assures that a gallery exhibition enriches the experience, with
art from or about the country being explored. Not long after next
January’s "Russia Day," Earth Day will, as usual, prompt a
significant celebration, which is also reflected in Chapin’s gallery.
Last year, Jody Miller-Olcott exhibited her mixed-media portraits
of extinct birds, talking with student groups about such concepts
as habitat, endangered species, and even iconic imagery. For Earth
Day 2000, John King, a faculty member from neighboring Lawrenceville
School, will share his animal photography from a photo safari in Kenya.
Although there is no art history as such in the Chapin curriculum,
students are exposed to different mediums — pottery to watercolor
to collage — in a spacious new art studio there, and they can
take after-school electives, such as photography. For now, at Chapin
and the other schools mentioned here, student works are displayed,
of course — not, as a rule, in the art gallery, but on building
walls and in other designated spaces. And visitors with no connection
to the schools except perhaps an interest in the art on view there,
are welcome, generally by appointment.
In an embarrassment of riches, Lawrenceville School’s Gruss Center
of Visual Arts boasts not just one, but two galleries, the art-heart
of a handsomely enlarged and renovated building — formerly the
library — that now also houses art classrooms and studios and
computer facilities. Jamie Greenfield, a painter who teaches studio
courses and directs the Hutchins Gallery, also chairs the school’s
fine arts department. Art history teacher Penny Foss directs the rotunda
gallery, which houses loaned shows and exhibitions from the school’s
permanent collection, for which she also serves as registrar.
Recent programmatic tie-ins to the art on view have included student
writing in response to a show of photography, and "copying the
masters" — drawing from Rembrandt. Student "curatorial
assistants" work with Foss, and because the building is central
and open many hours a day, anyone on campus can easily drop in to
use the computers or watch the art students, besides visiting the
galleries. The building’s self-contained nature allowed Greenfield
to involve her students with an artist who was setting up his installation
in a stairwell last spring.
Opening this month in the rotunda gallery, "Objects of Ritual"
is a timely model of how the visual arts mesh with Lawrenceville’s
curriculum. Entirely borrowed from private collectors — Foss enthuses
over the help she received from the staff of the Art Museum at Princeton
University — the multi-cultural masks, vessels, musical instruments,
and figurines will tie in with an open elective course in philosophy
and religion, "Myth and Ritual," as well as an introductory
unit of the same name in a course for ninth graders. The faculty members
responsible for these courses will make extensive use of the gallery
exhibition, Foss says, and related activities will include a demonstration
of the musical instruments.
Greenfield anticipates the Hutchins Gallery’s faculty exhibition,
featuring works by five teachers, that opens this Wednesday, September
8. "It’s important for students to see what their teachers are
doing," she says, citing also the school’s "Creativity Through
the Arts" course, another interdisciplinary offering, this one
mixing tenth graders with theater, music, and visual arts.
Lawrenceville School’s collection, now numbering about 200 art works
(from Romare Bearden to Joseph Stella and including John Safer’s contemporary
sculpture), began in the late 19th century with gifts of Audubon books.
Establishment of the Center for Visual Arts allowed the collection
to be centrally housed in climate-controlled comfort. And it is now
more accessible, Foss says. In her advanced placement art history
course, students study ancient objects from the school’s collection,
in effect living with them and seeing them from all angles — a
far cry from merely seeing such works on a slide or in a book —
honing their observation and writing skills in the process.
Student writing, both poetry and prose, is also a frequent
response to art gallery work at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred
Heart. Last year an animal theme connected the exhibitions — from
an invited mixed media show and installation art, through giant, semi-abstract
acrylic paintings to winsome images of domestic scenes all populated
by animals. Stuart’s K through grade 12 students found it easy to
interact with all this work since the gallery area serves as their
"virtual living room," complete with couches, carpeting, and
flower arrangements. "It opens minds to what art can be and shows
art is valued in this community," says Madelaine Shellaby, curator,
art teacher, and artist, of Stuart’s Considine Gallery, an attractive
glazed green-brick place.
"On the eve of the millennium, we’ll be doing the newest art of
our time," says Shellaby. Her schedule for this year allocates
much of October for performance art by Deirdre McGrail and Tim Trelease,
both from the art faculty of the Peddie School, Hightstown. (Peddie,
by the way, is home to reproductions from the collection of alumnus
Walter Annenberg, the school’s most generous benefactor, and to Mariboe
Gallery, where yet another alumnus recently shared his collection
of Cindy Sherman stills.) When the two teachers perform, Stuart photography
students will do filming and mounting of photos; with the props the
performers will leave behind, students will then try performance art
Its immediate carry-over is just one effect of this art form. Peddie’s
Tim Trelease — who will do performance art in the Philadelphia
Fringe Festival later this month — calls it "a visual poem,"
explaining that "in throwing out clues and visual cues in a non-linear
way, it can make more demands on viewers than traditional theater."
It provokes imagination and prompts questions. Adding yet another
dimension, performance art can also be interactive — it can occur
among its audience members and involve them in its process, leading
to a collaborative and more valuable end-product. Both Trelease, who
paints in oils and makes constructions with found objects, and McGrail,
a Stuart alumna who makes mixed-media collages, use their visual arts
to accompany their performance art.
Later in Stuart’s school year, the gallery will host the Princeton
Artists Alliance, a group of area artists who will make new work on
a single theme in a wide variety of mediums, for "Regeneration:
Renewal and Reformation in the Context of the Millennium." Continuing
her practice of showing professional artists in the Considine Gallery,
Shellaby plans a spring show of works by independent-school art faculty
from this area. It’s a good bet that Stuart students will be involved
with the art in as many ways as there are mediums on view, or as Shellaby
puts it, "There are many potentials for using this art that are
untapped but not unthought of."
School art galleries that show professional work: a good thing for
everyone involved. Students can gain comfort, familiarity, and critical
skills, while their art teachers gain stimulation and experience.
School communities and outside visitors gain a bit of visual arts
education. And exhibiting artists find yet another venue — by
definition, a very good thing.
— Pat Summers
609-620-6026. First day for the annual faculty show featuring Brian
Daniell, Jamie Greenfield, Allen Fitzpatrick, Andy Franz, and Leonid
Siveriver. Opening reception is Thursday, September 23, 7 p.m. Show
continues to October 6. Wednesday, September 8.
day for an exhibition of wood engravings by Michelle M. Post. Opening
reception is Wednesday, September 22, at 5 p.m., for the show that
runs to October 8. Also on campus, sculpture by Harry H. Gordon. Open
by appointment during school hours. Wednesday, September 8.
of his wood, stone, and bronze sculptures sited around the Chapin
campus for the 1999-2000 school year. (Raindate is September 26.)
Free. Sunday, September 12, 3:30 p.m.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.