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PECS fine art program sparks creative learning, imaginations

Winnie Gopher works on her sculpture Feb. 24 during the Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School fine arts program, which taught students art appreciation while crafting their own creations.
Winnie Gopher works on her sculpture Feb. 24 during the Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School fine arts program, which taught students art appreciation while crafting their own creations.

BRIGHTON — Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School fifth-graders are learning how painting, sculpture and music provoke thought and are creating their own versions of fine art in the process.

Held every three weeks, the PECS fine art program compares visual art with music of the same era. During a Feb. 24 class, about 30 students compared characteristics of sculpture and music created in the classical versus improvisational style. After the lesson, students sculpted colorful modeling clay.

Teacher Michelle Pritchard presented a slide show of sculptures from the Renaissance period – 14th to 17th century – to today. The differences between classic Michelangelo and modern Pablo Picasso were discussed.

“In Michelangelo’s sculptures you can see great detail, even the veins in the hands,” Pritchard said as she showed a detail photo of his famous sculpture “David.” “During the Renaissance, artists studied dead bodies and sliced them open to learn the anatomy.”

Pritchard said that classical is more regimented while improvisational is more abstract. She cited Mr. Potato Head from the movie “Toy Story,” with his eyes, nose and mouth in the wrong places, as an example of cubism, a style Pablo Picasso founded.

Slides were also shown of works by sculptors Edmonia Lewis, a classical artist of Native American and African American heritage who worked during the Civil War era; Jeff Koons, a modern artist known for large balloon animals made of steel with colorful mirror finishes; and Ron Mueck, a modern hyperrealistic sculptor known for detailed oversized and small figures.

Students learned sculptures can be made from a variety of materials, including wood, stone, clay, glass, paper and bronze.

“A lot of sculpture you chisel away from the original piece, like a canoe from a log,” Pritchard said. “But sculpture can also make a statement and make you think.”

The fine arts program started two years ago in individual classrooms but was expanded this year with the availability of the media/music room in the school’s new gym. Pritchard said she always enjoyed teaching art and she incorporated music, art history and social studies this year. The goal is for students to gain an appreciation for art and music.

“Many of our students are ESE (exceptional student education) or challenged with regular learning and so often the ones that don’t do as well academically and are very artistic,” Pritchard wrote in an email response to The Seminole Tribune. “This is a way to let them shine and express themselves.”

Pritchard explained how art can convey messages and showed an example of a sculpture of a gun with the barrel tied in a knot.

“You kind of can’t shoot a bullet when it’s tied up like that,” one student said.

As the students worked on their projects, Pritchard played two versions of George Gershwin’s 1924 “Rhapsody in Blue.” Classical music by Mozart and Beethoven were also played. Hip-hop and “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson with Bruno Mars offered examples of improvisational style music.

Winnie Gopher’s sculpture of a person with a heart outside the body is “dying on the inside,” she said. “It shows the world today is making everyone feel down and depressed.”

Cheyenne Lara’s dog with a mask was more than just cute; it made an important point.

“Even people with the brightest smiles can cry the most tears but hide behind a mask,” she said.

Some students created art that reminded them of days passed. Shylynn Testerman constructed a snowman just like the ones she made when she lived in Oklahoma.

By the end of the class, students had created art and learned in the process.

“It feels like you’re so alive,” Pherian Baker said.

“It gets your imagination going,” added Makya King.

Pritchard said the program will culminate with a visit to an art museum in May.


Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at