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Learning the legacy of a master

Dale Thompson, Of the Record staff

Not all works of art stand the test of time, but Rembrandt van Rijn’s work is entering its 400th year and still enjoying wide popularity.

To celebrate this anniversary McPolin Elementary students kicked off last week with a special assembly presented by Randy Barton, who combined live theatre with a video production to create, "The Life and Art of Rembrandt."

Masterpieces in Art Outreach Coordinator and a member of the PTO at McPolin Elementary, Carol Tesch, said the performance engaged students and made learning about art history fun.

The children have discovered that while Rembrandt was famous for many things, including his use of light and shadow, one of his more unusual traits was his enjoyment of creating self portraits.

"He painted and sketched a lot. I think he had 300 paintings and 100 were of himself," said McPolin fifth-grader Jett Totora.

Last week the students took a page out of Rembrandt’s sketch book and created self portraits in a printmaking workshop hosted by the Kimball Art Center.

The children in grades 3-5 were given the materials to make four prints. Three of those became note cards they could send to friends or family, and their artist’s proofs will be on display at the Kimball Art Center on Friday, Feb. 24 during the Gallery Arts and Eats Stroll.

Education Coordinator for the Kimball Art Center, Annie Kennedy, explained that art engages students minds.

"I think children learn a lot from the arts, you build social skills and a better understanding of the world," she said, adding that it also helps them to learn concepts like negative space and writing backwards.

Students had to sign prints backwards so their signature would read correctly on the artist’s proofs. Kennedy told them Rembrandt sometimes neglected this little detail and his name appears backwards on a handful of the prints he created.

"No matter what you do in art it’s always right," Tesch said.

Logan Baltzan, a fifth-grader, loves art because it allows her to express herself.

"They don’t tell you what to draw. You (get to) express yourself and how you feel that day," Logan said.

Jett, who is more into sports like baseball and soccer, will admit that art has its strong points.

"There’s some really cool art," he said, adding, "I’m into looking at art, mostly sculpture and some good paintings."

He feels that Rembrandt was particularly good.

"They looked lifelike," he said of the Rembrandt pictures he has seen.

Tesch said McPolin strives to incorporate the arts into most lesson plans. having students create note cards in the print making workshop it encourages students to write and becomes a literacy lesson. There are additional benefits to encouraging the children to embrace art.

"It energizes them. At this age they still believe that they’re artists and it allows them to be the expert," she said.


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