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HOMEGROWN ART
June 2, 1999 — Source: Naperville Sun, The (IL) — Author: Kathy Millen


Not all great art hangs in humidity-controlled rooms cordoned off with red velvet ropes.

Sometimes it is on display in the sun, wind and rain, almost begging to be sat upon, stepped on and, most certainly, touched.

Last week, 69 fifth-grade students at Ss. Peter and Paul School did the sitting, stepping and touching as they toured the Century Walk, a collection of art on permanent display throughout downtown Naperville.

For the past nine months, the students have been learning about each artwork in a new program introduced by teacher Pat Schmitt and parent volunteers Lyn Dial and Diane Cunningham.

The children focused on one of the Century Walk pieces each month.

Several of the artists visited the classroom.

Thus inspired, the children created art projects tying in with that month's lesson.

The finishing stroke was a trip downtown to actually see the art that is flourishing in their own community.

They sat on the mosaic sculptures of couches reminiscent of those turned out by the Kroehler Manufacturing Company around 1925. They knelt to examine a bronze topographical map of Naperville.

They stood before a large mural and tried to identify Naperville landmarks.

"I think it's kind of cool," said fifth-grader Michael Wehrli, looking up at the "History of Transportation" mural on Washington Street and Chicago Avenue.

"It shows a time line of Naperville."

The entire 10-piece exhibit charts Naperville's passage through time, highlighting important people, places and events in the city's history.

The collection is expected to grow to 30 before the exhibit is complete.

Schmitt said that she hopes learning more about these artworks will show children that creativity abounds in their own back yards.

"Our goal is for the kids to realize that there is art in Naperville," said Schmitt, shepherding the children from sculpture to mural to mosaic.

"When they are going down the street, they can tell their parents.

This will snowball and more and more people will know what is happening in the community and what art we offer.

I think it's important for the kids to know there is not just the art in the museums."

Schmitt was working to make art more meaningful to her fifth-graders who were losing interest in the traditional "Picture Lady" program that relied on parent volunteers to talk about well-known paintings and artists.
 

By introducing them to the art and artists around them, the children might better tap into the creative potential within themselves.

The artists, most of whom live within 20 miles of Naperville, were happy to oblige.

Jack Holme, whose "Growth and Change" is located at the Jefferson Hill Shops, told students how he researched the history of Naperville to create his massive steel sculpture showcasing tools used a century ago.

S. Michael Re described how he created the 17-foot-wide sculpture of the Naperville Municipal Band at Firstar Bank.

Kathleen Farrell showed students how she pieces together a mosaic.

Last fall, Naperville artist Timm Etters invited the class downtown to watch him paint his "The Printed Word" mural on the side of Ellman's Music Center.

The artists also talked about the role art has played in their lives since childhood.

"They don't disconnect art from the rest of their lives and community," Cunningham said.

"These kids are seeing how history affects an artist's point of view.

That is so important.

I think kids are learning a lot.

It's more experiential education.

I really believe that knowledge is transferred through experience.

That is the approach we are trying to take."

That approach has made an impression on Brian Dial. The 11-year-old student enjoys the program that his mother, Lyn, has helped present to his class.  He said he likes learning about the art in his own hometown.

Which only goes to confirm what his mother has been saying in class all year long.

"You don't always have to go to Chicago," Lyn Dial said.

"There are some pretty neat things right here."
       
        *****

BY THE NUMBERS  36  Bronze squares used to create "Naperville Geography," a topographical map outside Nichols Library.

100  Weight in pounds of each bronze square.

1,700  Bricks used to create "Search for Knowledge," the curved wall on the southwest corner of Jefferson Avenue and Eagle Street.

15  Naperville subdivisions named around the border of the "Heartland Harvest" mural located on the northwest corner of Jefferson Avenue and Main Street.

3  Butterflies pictured in the "Heartland Harvest" mural.

8  Hours to complete each 12-inch square section of "Heartland Harvest."

Source: Ss. Peter and Paul School art program

Getting the chance to touch the pieces of a mosaic on the Century Walk gives Ss. Peter and Paul students a feel for the art they have been studying all year. The school's fifth-grade art program incorporated a study of Naperville artworks. | Ss. Peter and Paul fifth-graders examine the "Growth and Change" sculpture during a recent tour of the Century Walk. The field trip was the culmination of a yearlong study of the Century Walk artworks on permanent display in downtown Naperville.
 

 

Section: NEWS — Page: 56

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