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When Pinecrest Academy closed in mid-March amid the coronavirus pandemic, art teacher Alison Stone knew her subject matter could help provide an outlet for students who might be experiencing isolation and uncertainty from the health crisis.
Then Stone saw the Getty Museum Challenge, an online project from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The museum had closed due to the coronavirus, but in an effort to keep its loyal customer base engaged, the museum put out a challenge to its social media followers “to re-create a work of art with objects (and people)” from their homes.
The challenge went viral, and when Stone saw it, she knew it was the perfect assignment.
“I knew this was a design problem that would spark curiosity, energy and creativity in my students,” Stone said.
The challenge went somewhat viral within the Pinecrest community, too. Stone received responses not just from current students but the school’s faculty and staff, parents, grandparents, former teachers and alumni.
Stone received so many responses, more than enough for the Pinecrest community to also vote for first-, second-, and third-place winners in multiple categories, including an overall “best in show” for “the most creative and original art solution to this art challenge.”
“I was extremely impressed by the creativity, resourcefulness and unique approach by each of the students,” Stone said. “I was especially impressed by whole families who accepted the art challenge.”
Initially, transitioning to online learning was a challenge, Stone said. She has tried to inspire students to continue creating art while at home but knows students have different access to materials and other resources. Stone also knew students would process the sudden turn of events from the pandemic differently.
Still, Stone saw an opportunity. Art, she thought, could provide students a chance to express their emotions during this tumult. When Stone found the Getty Museum Challenge, she knew it would also give students a chance to use other skills, like researching and creative thinking to “see their quarantined surroundings as opportunities for creative expression.”
To jumpstart the project, Stone and her husband, a theology teacher at Pinecrest, re-created “American Gothic,” the famous 1930 painting by Grant Wood of a stoic farmer and his wife, pitchfork and all. Stone then sent out instructions to her high school art students along with resources to find inspiration.
The responses were “ingenious,” she said, so encouraging that Stone then invited the whole Pinecrest community to participate.
Some participants re-created famous portraits, like Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” or “The Nefertiti Bust” of the wife of an Egyptian pharaoh. One student used candy bars to re-create the painting “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Japanese artist Hokusai. Pets were necessary to pull off some of the re-creations, too.
Stone received lots of feedback from students and families. Many were grateful for how the project brought them together during this difficult time and provided a lift-hearted moment to share, she said.
“The life lesson I hope that the students learn,” Stone said, “is that this time of quarantine, seen with the lens of opportunity, can be a blessing and a time to wonder and create."