Laurel students still learning from Art in Action | March 7, 2018 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Cover Story - March 7, 2018

Laurel students still learning from Art in Action

by Barbara Wood

It's been 35 years since Judy Sleeth started teaching what would become the Art in Action program in her daughter's kindergarten class at Laurel School in Atherton.

Since then, the organization says, more than half a million students have been beneficiaries of the program.

At Laurel School on a recent Thursday afternoon, four mothers of students in Leigh Wilson's kindergarten class arrived to teach an Art in Action lesson called "Balanced Composition," inspired by Piet Mondrian's abstract art.

Seated on a rug or snuggled up on a classroom sofa, the students listened as Kathy Kursa told them a little about Mondrian and his art, projecting examples of his work on a large screen.

The kindergarten classroom was filled with the results of their earlier art lessons, including a row of paintings inspired by one of Vincent van Gogh's Sunflower series paintings.

Ms. Kursa showed the students a copy of one of Mondrian's simple abstract paintings — red, yellow and blue cubes divided by thick and thin black lines. "When you look at it, does it make you think of anything?" Ms. Kursa asked. "A maze," said one child. "Buildings," said another. "A maze you can never get out of," said a third. "Legoland Hotel," said another.

The kindergartners talked about how the painting had been composed, and how it made them feel. "Robotic," "beautiful," "weird," "calm" and "happy" came up. Then they hurried to tables where they picked up pre-cut strips of paper to make their own Mondrian-inspired collages.

The composition, said one of the mothers helping with the lesson, "is all up to you."

"Keep doing it until you're happy with what you have," said another, as they passed out glue for the students to use once they were ready to anchor their compositions in place.

"I like doing art all the time," one of the students said. Van Gogh, he said, is his favorite artist so far.

After not quite an hour, artworks stacked on drying racks, the kindergartners went on to their next activity with a little bit more appreciation for art and artists, and with the knowledge that they, too, can make art.


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