School may be out for the summer, but the visual creativity inspired by the Greater Reston Arts Center’s GRACE Arts program continues to be displayed in a special two-week exhibition.
On view at GRACE in Reston Town Center though June 30, the exhibition, which opened June 15, the same day Fairfax County Public Schools closed, features the selected artworks of 122 students from 13 of the 43 Fairfax County schools participating in GRACE Arts during the last school year.
Of the enrichment program’s participating schools, 40 are public elementary schools, two are private, and one is a day care center.
Formerly known as Art in the Schools, GRACE Arts was established in 1976 by Greater Reston Arts Center to supplement and support local children’s art experiences in school.
Run entirely by volunteers, according to Jeanne Loveland, the program’s director for the past five years, it reaches more than 22,000 students, working with about 2,000 volunteers who contribute close to 20,000 volunteer hours each school year.
Volunteer art coordinators at each participating school choose their school’s theme from the program’s 80 different electronic portfolios, which each focus on a particular artist, style of art, or a theme of art.
Monica Cramer, coordinator for Vienna Elementary, chose modern sculptor Robert Lobe, whose works are inspired by the shapes, materials and textures found in nature, particularly woods. He replicates trees and rocks, using heat-treated sheets of aluminum that are repetitively hammered by mallets and a pneumatic air compressor. Locally, one of his sculptures can be found on the grounds of the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston.
The materials used by Vienna Elementary fourth- and fifth graders in their Lobe-inspired works included pipe cleaners, tin foil and florist foam.
Especially excited, Cramer said, are the five students whose works were selected for exhibition — not the “artistic” children whose works are usually singled out. She remembered thinking that with school close to ending, she might have a hard time getting them to write their artist statements for the exhibition.
Instead, the young artists were so honored and thrilled, they wrote and handed in their statements immediately.
That is one of the joys of GRACE Arts, Cramer said. “It allows everyone to be creative.”
Cramer, a Soviet Studies major in college, and her 50 docents, who do the 45-minute portfolio presentations, learn as much as the 384 Vienna Elementary students involved in the program. And she always is delighted when she and her own children who are part of the program — daughter Jordan, 10, and son Brandon, 7 — recognize artists and styles of art during museum visits.
GRACE Arts presentations start with a 15 to 20 minute open discussion with active participation by the children. That is followed by a 45-minute art activity, related to the artist or subject the children discussed.
“The kids absolutely love it,” Cramer said. “Number one, it’s not math. It’s kind of different and combines art and history. And they have a lot more input into discussions than a lecture. It’s more a conversation, and they always love the art projects.”
For example, when students learn about Picasso, they do cubist portraits. After a discussion of African-American artist Faith Ringgold, who is best known for her painted story quilts, they create their own quilts.
And having their works exhibited in a “real, grown-up gallery” is always a thrill, said Loveland, a Reston resident since 1989, who before becoming the program’s director was a volunteer coordinator at her now 18-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son’s elementary schools.
She recalled a similar exhibition in 2003 when an artwork created by one of her daughter’s friends was selected. “She was over the moon, Loveland said. “I expect it will be the same.”
There will be an opening reception for the student art exhibition at GRACE from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday.