Patrick Rodgers showed a photo of Jacques Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii, and then a photo of Peter Paul Rubens’ Daniel in the Lions’ Den to explain to students how each artist incorporates geometric images in their paintings to create a sense of symmetry and drama. Rodgers, the galleries director at Montgomery County Community College, isn’t teaching an art history course to undergraduate students, however, he’s teaching a group of first through third graders from ACLAMO Family Centers in Norristown.
Nearly 50 Latino children ages 6 to 9 learned about art – and about geometry, symmetry and perspective – as part of a Summer Arts Camp at the College’s Central Campus in Blue Bell, Pa. The camp concluded on August 2 when the children’s work was exhibited in an Art Garden in the Fine Arts Gallery at the College.
For years, ACLAMO Family Centers, a non-profit organization which provides educational programs, social services and health access to the Latino community in Montgomery County, has run a Summer Bridge Program for Latino children with a focus on the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Last year, they decided to add an arts component to the program (STEAM), but quickly discovered that they didn’t have the capacity or resources to expand the program.
“One of the things we lacked was space here at ACLAMO or the expertise to do a truly good art component and art supplies are very pricy,” said Marla Benssy, director of education for ACLAMO. “It was more of an arts and crafts program, which is fun for kids, but not really what we wanted to do.”
Montgomery County Community College, which has partnered with ACLAMO on several initiatives, offered its services to ACLAMO earlier this spring, developing the Summer Arts Camp at the College which included teaching children about geometry, symmetry and perspective through art.
Each Wednesday since July 12, the children took the short bus ride from ACLAMO to MCCC for three hours of art instruction under Rodgers and MCCC fine arts students Lucy Derstine and Victoria Rivers.
“The idea was to show them how fine art is related to geometrical concepts,” Rodgers said. “They’ve responded fantastically. They love it. I don’t remember getting any art history until I was a senior in high school, and they are going nuts over a Peter Paul Rubens painting.”
Rodgers used the paintings and other art examples, including sculpture and architecture, to introduce each lesson, then the students became the artists.
Students created sculpture totems of geometric shapes, symmetrical butterflies and flowers, painted asymmetrical cherry blossoms trees, and drew landscapes to demonstrate perspective. All were displayed in the Art Garden.
Benssy said the camp was a great addition to the Summer Bridge Program and she hopes to continue the program at MCCC next year.