Barton brings Rembandt to school
On Monday, Rembrandt van Rijn visited the Eccles Center. Van Rijn, known to most by his first name only, came to the Eccles stage through a performance by Park City impresario Randy Barton.
While Barton is best known for his work as a local media personality and the head of Mountain Town Stages, he also has a job moonlighting as a master artist.
"I’ve had a long-time idea, [for] an artistic form called video theatre," Barton said.
The show, he continued, combines live theatre with a video program, providing a unique educational experience. Originally, when he first conceived the idea about eight years ago, he said his intention was to create a series of shows about historical figures.
"I decided to start with Rembrandt," he said.
Barton said he picked Rembrandt first because of some prior knowledge about the master and the visually stimulating nature of his work. He spent a few years putting everything together and then took the work out and into the public, making his first public performance about five years ago.
"The Rembrandt show did real well when I first did it," said Barton.
But, he noted, after touring just about everywhere he could in the area, the demand for the show ran out, and he moved on to another project. He resurrected the show this year for the Eccles Center show, which he performed for the third, fourth and fifth graders at McPolin Elementary.
"I was happy with it," said Barton about his performance. "It felt natural."
In the show, Barton plays Rembrandt, teaching the students about the artist’s life through his performance and the images on a video screen. But Barton said he doesn’t simply portray the painter as a historical figure. Rather, Barton paints a picture of Rembrandt as a person.
"His life and his work defines him," said Barton. "He was a real individual who went through all the highs and lows of a real life."
The artist, he noted, started his career with great success, but eventually lost his fortune as he became one of the first painters to strike out on his own, painting neither portraits nor commissions, but what he wanted.
His work, however, has stood the test of time. He remains known for his self-portraits, his paintings, and his etchings, and this year will mark the 400th year after his birth.
According to McPolin Elementary parent and Masterpieces in Art Outreach Coordinator Carol Tesch, who organized the event, she thought of Barton when she noticed the anniversary.
"I had known that he got a grant to do this several years ago," said Tesch, "so when I started thinking about what we were going to do [for outreach], I started to think that, from 1606 to 2006, it’s Rembrandt’s 400th anniversary, and I remembered Randy’s show."
The performance kicks off a whole week of Rembrandt-themed events. A group of artists from the Kimball Art Center will come to the McPolin classrooms this week to talk about etchings and printmaking and then help the students create artworks of their own.
"The best part is that they’re going to have a chance to complete a high quality project in printmaking," said Tesch.
But with Barton’s Rembrandt show, she said, the kids would have an added experience.
"I think that the students who get to see Randy today, they’ll take Rembrandt into their hearts," she said.
The performance, she noted, will also provide the kids with some perspective and a bit of art education.
"It’s super that they get to enjoy this," said Tesch.
"My fourth grader just came home and said, ‘That show is so cool,’" she noted.
Barton said he hopes to take the show to some other area schools, if possible, and he has ambitions of fulfilling the project’s original aims.
"I’d like to go on the road and do other characters," he said.
Other possible characters?
"I’ve always thought it would be good to do someone like an Einstein," said Barton.
He also said someone like George Washington would be another possibility.
Tesch was happy to get Barton for the McPolin students.
"I just hope that we can continue to bring more art into the elementary school schedule," she said.
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