Most preschool artists are pleased if you hang their work on the fridge. At the Forest Hills Connection Art Walk in May, we saw preschooler art that wouldn’t look out of place on a gallery wall.
Franklin Montessori, a preschool for three- to six-year-olds, was a stop on the art walk. On its walls hung not only the teachers’ works, but also its students’ individual and group art projects. And when we saw the tiny Frida Kahlo replica art studio downstairs, we were ready to go back to preschool right then and there.
The work and educational materials on display were so impressive that Forest Hills Connection asked Audrey Sayer, one of the school’s two art teachers, to explain this program to our readership.
by Audrey Sayer
Franklin’s art program was founded more than a decade ago by a visionary and talented Franklin parent, Diana Oboler. She created the program with the knowledge that children are natural artists who can (and should!) use the same high-quality art supplies that adult artists use.
Based on the Montessori philosophy that children, through individual choice, make use of what the environment offers to develop themselves, Franklin’s art program encourages children to use a wide variety of materials independently with support from a teacher when needed. The program is a blend of art history and experimentation with different art materials, focusing on color, drawing and composition.
Franklin’s Early Childhood classrooms are introduced to a new artist or art movement during every ten-week unit. In the past, the children have explored the lives and artistic influence of Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso, Jean Dubuffet, Andy Warhol, Emily Carr, Jean-Michel Basquiat, among many others.
The unit kicks off with Diana’s theatrical presentation in the art studio, which is transformed into the world of that artist, whether it’s the fields of southern France (van Gogh), Warhol’s Factory, Monet’s garden or the gritty streets of New York City in the 1980s (Basquiat).
After the presentation, the children come down to the art studio in small groups throughout the unit, working under the guidance of Franklin art teachers Audrey Sayer and Isabel Moffly. By the end of the unit, each student will have created their own painting and contributed to a larger collaborative painting.
The unit culminates with a real art gallery opening, complete with food and drinks. Families are invited to view the pieces displayed on the first floor gallery, and watch a movie of the students painting and acting out scenes from the artist’s life.
Art night also includes an auction for the class’s collaborative painting, which every child has a hand in. Once the unit ends, Ms. Audrey and Ms. Isabel completely transform the studio once again for the next class. The magic continues…