Soley for the Sake of Art

Story and photos
by Jim Blow
of the Leader
POLSON — There’s a new appreciation for art being incubated within the walls of Cherry Valley School.
And it’s certainly not the kind that restricts painting between the lines.
Beginning this week, young artists from the school will place some of their artwork on display in various Polson businesses, but don’t expect to see run-of-the-mill, two-dimensional finger paintings.
“Shoes on Parade” are examples of shoes painted and collaged by students studying a variety of artists as part of the school’s art docent program.
Art docent coordinator Edna Lemm was involved with a similar project as part of an art docent program in Monroe, Wash. The idea is to introduce a fun form of art and tie it into art history. This month’s focus has been on painting shoes in the style of various artists that the volunteer docents discuss with each class.
“We try to use different mediums for each lesson,” Lemm explained. Each of the 18 docents pick an artist for each monthly session with their class, then introduces students to the style, technique and history of the artist.
Then the fun begins.
Students use a variety of art disciplines — painting, sculpture, decoupage and drawing — to express the style of the artist in their own artwork. This month’s project involves painting or decoupaging shoes in the style of an artist that they study under the art docent.
Artists and their styles range from Jackson Pollock, known for his action drip painting; Rauschenberg, the 20th Century collage artist; Faith Ringgold, an African-American quilt artist; Monet, an impressionist most well known for his water and garden scenes; and Montana’s own Charlie Russell.
Each shoe will be mounted to a wooden plaque, courtesy of Lemm’s husband, Mike. The name of the piece, the artist’s name, and the name of the historical artist that inspired the piece will also be included on the plaque.
The shoes were donated by parents, supplemented by a donation from the Country Store.
Rather than reproducing the artists’ style on canvas or paper, Lemm thought it might raise even more interest if an unconventional medium was used.
“We wanted to do something that was small and inexpensive. We came up with shoes ... and it came out pretty well, I think,” Lemm smiled.
Using different mediums for each lesson helps the students expand their art knowledge.
“It helps teach them that art takes various forms ... whether it’s a shore or a pig or whatever, it’s still art,” she explained.
The program, currently in grades kindergarten through fourth, is art history-based and Lemm credits the teachers for “priming” the students with art history knowledge before the docent program began.
“It’s also about language. We want them to understand what the focal point of the artwork is, what attracts them to it, how do the colors make them feel, and what patterns appear in the artwork,” Lemm said. “So, when they go to a museum they can explain why the art piece appeals to them, rather than just say ‘I like it.’”
Lemm picked about 60 of the shoes for the rotating exhibits at businesses, but all 285 shoes will be on display at a special art show at Cherry Valley School on June 2.