Classroom of the Week: Art and history make a great pairing in Lenox project


LENOX — Lenox Memorial Middle and High School art teacher, Karen Romeo-Léger, has a tagline in the signature of her email that seems apropos for a special art project worked on this school year. From a 2011 article from the National Art Education Association "Art Education" journal, it reads, "In art class, students must be innovative and fearless risk-takers because they will not find answers in the textbook!"

In honor of the town's 250th anniversary, with support from a grant from the Lenox Education Enrichment Foundation (LEEF), Romeo-Léger and fellow art teacher Lesliejohn Roche commissioned artist Michael Melle to do a special project incorporating Melle's signature life-sized scarecrow designs. The scarecrows were built during workshops held May 16 and 17, involving seventh-graders, as well as the Advanced Placement (AP), pre-AP, and National Art Honors Society students.

"The sculptures represent significant historical figures from our past as well as depictions of American life as per a Norman Rockwell painting," Romeo-Légersaid.

She said the seventh-grade students have been researching "significant people and places of our past."

The seventh grade students researched the history of Lenox in their interdisciplinary class. Each student chose a particular historical topic, person or area.

"We then had to narrow down our options and choose six that would informed the design of the figures," the art teacher said.

Melle and his wife, Lindsay, provided the wood and straw, nails and string, and of course, the instruction for the project, while the students gathered the proper clothing and props to outfit each figure and create a 3-D illustration to be displayed throughout town. More than 100 students had a hand in the project all together, and members of the public were also invited to join in.

Within the school, the art students collaborated with the history department, guided by history teacher Kelley Khoury-Cady with support from Peter Starenko, in order to research an appropriate era or particular individuals that have had historical significance to the history of Lenox. To prepare for their part of the project, the seventh-grade students watched a video of historic biographies made by Judy Seman, in honor of the town's milestone anniversary. It's called "Lenox through the Years: 1767-2017."

Community support also came from the Lenox Library, the Lenox Historical Society and individual local historians who offered their insights.

"In the past I have organized field trips to visit the Historical Society and the volunteers there are always willing and ready to help us. They have a plethora of photographs, objects and details of our past along with stories to enrich these items," Romeo-Léger said.

Members of the Lenox 250th Committee provided additional photos and props for the project.

As part of the project, the art teacher asked students to write individual papers in reflection of the research and work they had done.

Seventh-grade student Mary Elliot called it a "rewarding experience." "I really appreciate the opportunity not only to work on art pieces with my friends, but also to get involved in the 250th anniversary of Lenox and getting to take part in a great artist's process," she said.

Seventh-grader Piper Maxymillian said the process used a lot of teamwork and "was a blast!"

Students Cecilia Kittross and Julianne Harwood echoed similar sentiments on working with their classmates to take on an artistic challenged to be put on public display.

"I didn't realize how much materials, effort and time went into the creation of the sculptures, and it made me appreciate how interesting they are," Harwood wrote.


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