For her third annual art project, Nelson Middle School Art Teacher Laurie Davis is once again getting her students amped up to see their teachers dressed up as famous people, artists and paintings.

For her 8th grade visual arts education class, Davis has titled the lesson “Two Weeks of Fame.”

Davis said 26 teachers from Nelson Middle School have volunteered for the project and will dress up and use props to recreate famous artists, paintings and people.

Each student will choose a teacher or staff member’s photo which has already been or will be taken to recreate in a mixed-media drawing.

Davis hopes through the project, the students will learn details about art history, themes in art, art genres, pop culture, music and sports.

“I want them to see how art has influenced culture today,” she said. “For example many students when they see a ‘Scream’ mask at Halloween they don’t always know that it is from a famous painting by Edvard Munch.”

Every year Davis puts an art project together at the school and tries to involve as many staff and teachers as possible. She said their involvement helps the kids get excited about art.

Teachers and staff are posing for portraits such as “Triple Self Portrait” by Norman Rockwell, “Girl with the Pearl Earring” by Vermeer and “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Davis said the photos were taken last week of the teachers and staff and now students begin their project, which she anticipates they will have complete by the end of the month.

She hopes to showcase the project at an art exhibit in March.

“It is my hope that students will learn how to connect Art History with history, humanity and culture. I want the students to know that in some ways our society is shaped by what has gone before us,” she said. “I want my students to be art literate. I also want my students to experience working with teachers, staff and the whole community and how wonderful it is when collaboration takes place.”

Eighth grader Skylar Cabaniss said she is torn between working on Vincent Van Gogh and “The Scream.”

“But I think I am gonna go with Vincent Van Gogh because I watched this really cool show called Dr. Strange where he helped Van Gogh time warp to the present to show him how people loved his artwork even though in the day, he did not think people loved his art,” she said. “I like his art because of the swirly strokes and the bright yellows.”

Eighth grader Charlotte Lacey said she is excited about the lesson because she thinks it is funny to see her teachers dress up like an old painting.

“It makes them fun teachers,” she said.

Cabaniss said she likes how so many teachers sign up to help with the project.

“It makes art history more fun to learn about stories of paintings,” she said.

Claudia van Koba, a former Tye River Elementary School art teacher, rolled up her sleeves again after retiring in 2014 to help Davis out when she needed an extra set of hands.

“I love being back in the schools,” van Koba said. “Laurie has all kinds of energy and she asked me recently, ‘Have you ever had a project where you bit off more than you could chew?’ and I said, “I know of what you speak.’”

Van Koba said she remembers one Thanksgiving break where she spent the entire week in the school finishing a 30-foot dragon for an art project for her students.

Van Koba helped Davis by completing an entire backdrop for the Grant Wood classic, “American Gothic.”

Married couple and teachers Matt and Lisa Schoener will be posing for the shot.

She said it involved perspective drawing including a porch, farmhouse and windows which took van Koba three hours to complete.

“It was not my forte,” she laughed. “I’m not an architectural renderer by trade and it took me a while. I was playing around with projectors and right angles.”

The best part of the project for Davis though is watching the kids get excited.

“They are really curious about the artists’ lives and that they were flawed human beings and they are fascinated by them and want to know what their life was like and why they painted the way they did,” she said. “The best part is just seeing the kids light up when they understand what is behind an art piece.”

Rachael Smith covers local businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at (434) 385-5482.

Rachael Smith covers local businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at (434) 385-5482.

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