Mt Laurel students get up close with famous art

When Mt Laurel Elementary art teacher Celia Castle decided to teach her K-3 students about famous artist Vincent van Gogh, she knew her kids needed something to hold their attention.

So she decided to turn the school’s lobby into a museum.

Through a grant from the Shelby Education Foundation, Castle was able to get four traveling art exhibits, each focusing on one particular artist, to come to Mt Laurel this year. The first, on van Gogh, debuted last week.

“I believe students should see famous paintings, and if I can’t take them to the museum, then I’ll have the museum come to us as a traveling exhibit,” Castle said.

The students were able to study large prints of “Yellow Wheat and Cypresses,” “Café Terrace at Night,” “Trees in the Garden of Saint-Paul Hospital” and van Gogh’s most famous painting, “The Starry Night.” All the prints were at least 4 feet by 4 feet, so students were able to see minute details.

“Seeing them as large as they are, and for a child that’s 3 feet tall looking at it like that, it’s just astounding to them,” Castle said. “It grabs their attention.”

She said other teachers have seen the effects of the exhibit and the art lessons.

“The classroom teachers have been telling me, ‘If you ever wonder if what you’re teaching is actually sinking in, I promise they’re getting van Gogh,’” Castle said. “Everything they’re learning, they’re telling their families, they’re telling their teachers, they’re talking about it in class. I know that what I’m telling them, they’re getting it, and that makes me really excited.”

After Christmas, the students will be able to see the second planned exhibit, on M.C. Escher, who is famous for his symmetrical and technical drawings. The other two exhibits will be on Henri Rousseau, a French Impressionist painter who painted many scenes of the jungle, and Katsushika Hokusai, who worked in print-making and most famously made “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.”

The art exhibits are made available through Teacher’s Discoveries.