Train art in museum teaches kids rail history

June 08, 2000|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Not everyone can look at a train and see a work of art.

But a group of fourth-graders at Rockburn Elementary in Elkridge did just that, and their visions are on display at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore. Their prints are the result of an educational partnership with the school that seeks to bring art out of the classroom and familiarize children with the history of the railroad.

David H. Fischvogt, the museum's director of education, said the partnership is a natural one.

"Children love trains," Fischvogt said. "What this exhibit does is show trains through the eyes of children, and that's special."

The partnership began two years ago when art teacher AileenPugliesethought about a way to expand the relationship between her classes and the museum.

"I had been taking my students to the B&O Railroad Museum for years," Pugliese said. "The museum has been really cooperative, and after talking to them we came up with the idea to form the partnership."

The pupils visited in November and during their tour sketched trains that caught their attention. After that, they worked for weeks creating collographs, monoprints, Styrofoam prints and relief prints.

In the museum's Round House, dark green boards hold pictures of the fourth-graders during their visit. Others show them hard at work on their masterpieces at school and provide text explaining the partnership.

Then there is the display of the prints. From the abstract to collages, splashes of color fill the canvases showing steam engines and other trains. Dotted throughout the exhibit of more than 70 prints are quotes from children who expound on their visions.

"Making this print was a lot of work," wrote fourth-grader Andrew Arceabout his relief print, which showed steam pouring from a somewhat menacing orange, blue, pink and green train on a black background. "I had to make many decisions about the train."

Justin Franklin chose his subject because of its Hollywood connection.

"I picked [train] No. 5 because it was in the Will Smith movie," Justin wrote, referring to the film "Wild, Wild West." "This train was hard because I had to decide what parts to leave out."

Some of the prints are inside a red caboose in the Round House. Pugliese said the trains made ideal artistic models for the pupils.

"It gave them bigger scales to work with," she said. "The students really enjoyed it."

Rockburn Elementary Principal Ruth Heathsaid the art project complemented what the children are learning in history class.

"It's about using art as a medium to history and vice versa," Heath said. "Our curriculum in fourth grade deals with American history and that includes the railway."

The partnership has helped history have more meaning for the fourth-graders, Heath said.

"This is something they can use to express their feelings about what they have learned," she said. "The children were so proud of their work."

Fischvogtsaid the children were given a free tour of the museum and treated to a reception last month as part of their "opening.""We had students, parents, teachers and staff here for it," he said. "We served cookies and punch, and the kids really enjoyed it."

Fischvogt said that because of the success of the partnership, the museum is considering others. The school's display is scheduled to come down Saturday.

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