A Renaissance at San Jose; Students Get to Learn about the Period during Art Day

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland, Times-Union staff writer

Brooke Cajthaml lay under her desk emulating Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Taped to the bottom of her desk was an outline of the Renaissance painter's famed fresco of Adam touching the hand of God. A speck of brown paint dribbled on the 9-year-old, but she wiped it off and continued painting.

"Michelangelo spent four years on his back painting on wet plaster. He didn't do it the easy way on canvas," Jennifer Guidry told Brooke's fourth-grade class. "He didn't even want to change his clothes because he wanted to paint, paint, paint."

Guidry was among 100 parents helping put on a recent Art Day at San Jose Episcopal Day School. This year's theme was a Renaissance Faire, with students reliving the pivotal transitional period from Medieval to modern times.

There was a project going on in each class. First-graders, for example, made picture frames out of Popsicle sticks, beads and other decorations. Sixth-graders used a special transparent paint to turn pedestrian glass vases into a Venetian objet d'art. They made castles out of construction paper, maiden and jester hats out of fabric and stained glass shields out of crayon shavings. They practiced calligraphy and got their pictures taken in Renaissance garb.

Parent volunteer Helen Rowan, dressed in royal blue finery, discussed Leonardo da Vinci's innovative drawings of the proportion of a man's body.

Professional artist John Beard, another parent volunteer, also talked about Renaissance art and gave the students a composition lesson that enabled them to turn out their own mini landscapes and still lifes.

To help set the mood, members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, an educational research and re-enactment organization, demonstrated spinning, quill-making, egg-dying and calligraphy.

There were even some special guests. An elegantly robed Henry VIII, portrayed by James Jarrard, brought an English Renaissance singing group to entertain while the students dined on green grapes, chicken legs, corn, carrots and chocolate coins in the cafeteria. The singers, who included Kathy Barnwell, a third-grade teacher at San Jose, are members of Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Mandarin.

Planning for Art Day takes six months and involves many hours of preparation before teachers and parents set foot in the classrooms, said Jodie Richards, who chaired the event. …