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Traveling museum VanGo!s into Pa. school

March 10, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Lots of buses roll into Franklin Learning Center every day, but the arrival of the VanGo! bus this week was special to students and staff. A rolling art museum, the VanGo! bus brought works of art to students who otherwise might not be able to experience them.

The Susquehanna Art Museum (SAM), founded in 1989 and based in Harrisburg, Pa., developed the VanGo! museum on wheels in 1992 to provide exposure to original works of art to people who otherwise lack such opportunities.

An art educational experience of quality should expose viewers to the primary source, rather than reproductions, according to the museum's Web site.

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Franklin Learning Center (FLC), owned and operated by Franklin County's five school districts, provides educational programming through the Lincoln Intermediate Unit for students with special needs.

The 2004-05 VanGo! exhibition is Call of the Wild: Animals in Art. The exhibit explores a variety of artists depicting animals in a variety of media.

Catrina Evans, art teacher at the center, said she worked to bring VanGo! to the school to give the kids a chance to experience a museum "without everyone having to go to a museum. The animal theme is wonderful."

The handicapped-accessibility of the bus influenced her decision, Evans said, as many of the school's 200 students use wheelchairs.

While touring the bus, student Emily Myers, 21, asked, "What do you do with the artwork when the bus moves?"

The answer, according to Jessica Lantz, VanGo! program director, is that some pieces are placed in secure storage areas, while others stay where they are because they are bolted down.

Emily's sister, Kate Myers, 17, pointed to Canada geese in a painting by Bob Sopchick and said, "We hear those around our house." The painting is the original picture used for the 1992 Duck Stamp.

The bus visits 60 to 65 schools per year, Lantz said, as well as senior centers, arts festivals and libraries. The visit to FLC was made possible through grant money from various sponsors.

The art is on loan to the VanGo! project for the school year, Lantz added.

"The collection is curated specifically for the VanGo! bus with a new theme and works of art each year. We get some pretty big artists. The living artists like it because we reach thousands of people who might not get to an art museum."

The works of art are chosen from leading artists who have exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the world. Works by Pennsylvania wildlife artists Ned Smith and Bob Sopchick are on display, as are some of William Wegman's well-known photos of Weimeraner dogs. A video of the clothed, humanized dogs ran while the students toured the bus, eliciting smiles and giggles.

Evans said her favorite piece is a bronze-over-clay sculpture of a bear and a bull riding a seesaw. "It's so free," she said. Susan Read Cronin created the work, called "Boing."

Angie Brown, 15, smiled broadly and said "doggies" when asked which is her favorite work.

Tim Edwards, 20, liked the goldfish photos. He said he has two pet dogs, and also enjoyed the Weimeraner video.

Emily Myers liked "how the kitty was arranged. It looked like a cartoon character to me, like Tom and Jerry."

Back in her classroom, Emily showed a visitor a large sketch book of her drawings, including a still life, a depiction of Native Americans and a drawing of her fellow students posing with a large bear.

Kate Myers also draws and paints, and displayed a drawing of a pterodactyl flying over several figures.

Brittani Davis, 17, liked the cat. "It was pretty," she said. This was her first visit to an art museum.

Damal Lyles, also in his first visit to an art museum, chose the dog pictures as his favorite.

While many of the children were experiencing their first exposure to museum-quality art, Lantz was having a new experience also.

"This was my first time in a school like this," she said. "The kids seemed to enjoy it. The nonverbal ones showed by sounds and facial expressions that they liked it. The kids who could talk had fun things to say about their favorite works."

About 205 students, teachers and helpers went through the bus Wednesday.

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