Art Ambassadors’ Reflection on Lisi’s “Hill Scene.”

As a follow up project with the “Taking A Closer Look” collaboration between Pittsburgh Public Schools, Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, and the Friends of Art organization, four student Art Ambassadors from the Pittsburgh Carmalt Academy of Science and Technology wrote personal responses to their experience as student researchers, presenters, instructors, art critics, and teacher leaders. The “Taking A Closer Look” program has been funded for two years by the Milton Fine Foundation and the Frick Education Fund of the Buhl Foundation.

Dr. Och, principal of Pittsburgh Carmalt, met with the student Art Ambassadors to assist them with planning and implementing an integrated art and writing experience regarding an adopted painting from the “Learning Lab” at Greenway Gifted Center.

The student Art Ambassadors’ presentation for a group of fifth graders at Pittsburgh Carmalt was the culminating activity of their research and study about the artist, Henry Lisi, and his 1948 “Hill Scene” landscape which is one of the art works in the Friends of Art Collection currently hanging in the school.

Fadi I. writes, “As an Art Ambassador, I learned a lot about art. Partnering with my fellow classmates has been a great experience for me. When I become an adult I will look back at this opportunity and be surprised that, at the age of thirteen, I taught a lesson plan for fifth graders! While I was involved in this project, I learned about the daily life of a teacher, and boy, is it hard! My partners were great and helpful, and this whole project could not have been completed without our principal, Dr. Och and Art Educator, Dr. Sheahan. I hope to be involved in a similar project again someday.”

From the pen of Daria O., “When I first chose Art Ambassadors as a class to attend at the Gifted Center, I just thought I would explore the pleasures of making art. However, I was wrong. It turns out that the main goal of the class was to help spread the beauty of art throughout the Pittsburgh Public Schools. To do this, my classmates and I selected a painting from the Friends of Art Collection, owned by the Pittsburgh Public Schools, to transport to our school, Pittsburgh Carmalt, located in Brookline. Then, we as a group, along with the help of our principal, Dr. Och, came up with an idea that the fifth grade students should write a narrative story based on the painting, “Hill Scene.”

For the students to write this essay, I, along with the rest of my group, had to think like teachers and create a lesson plan. Also, after the essays were written, we, not the classroom teacher, had to check the written work and select the best one for publication on the “Taking A Closer Look” web site.

In my opinion, the Art Ambassadors course was very enriching and allowed us to see how important art is in education. With all of the proposed budget cuts, the government needs to know how important art is, and I think this experience did just that.

Thank you to Mrs. Blackwell, the art teacher responsible for creating the Art Ambassador course, along with Dr. Sheahan and Dr. Och, for letting us take part in this experience.”

Art Ambassador Marie V.’s voice: “Imagine having access to a collection of art more than ninety years, (with over three hundred and twenty five pieces of art work) in the making. Imagine spreading common knowledge from four Art Ambassador students, an entire class of fifth graders, and a magazine and web site in a project that has “never been done before.”

Picture the Friends of Art (FOA) purchases (a collection of original Pittsburgh art beginning in 1916) hanging in every home school for student opportunity of studying art…………….like myself!

I am an Art Ambassador, and being one through the Pittsburgh Gifted Center from the start of the 2009 school year to the current day means that I have the great honor to study artwork from the past to present in this Pittsburgh Public School art collection. As an Art Ambassador, this means taking classes to do just that and spreading my knowledge of the pieces to others who either do not understand the art, or want to learn more about the Friends of Art and Associated Artists of Pittsburgh who recently celebrated their one hundredth birthday!

And, furthermore, on May 10th, 2011, fellow peers of mine who attended the Art Ambassador program teamed up to create a presentation to a fifth grade class at our school, Pittsburgh Carmalt. We were able to select, from the FOA Collection, the painting, “Hill Scene”, by an artist named Henry Lisi. We narrowed down our selection from seven choices to meet the needs of the assignment the fifth graders were to do afterwards – a narrative based on the painting.

Finally, from teaching others about art after learning more myself, I stepped into the role of many people; thinking like an analyst and acting like a teacher. I realized how important sharing wisdom and art - ¬ from one generation to the next – actually is.

I think we can all learn something from art; it is a unique, elaborate, and interesting blend of ideas just like the life it depicts. Art helps us understand the things we do not understand on our own; it is the foundation of learning, and it continues to inspire and educate everyone – whether you are an “Art Ambassador”, like my peers and I, or not.”

Lanie W.’s reflection: “After becoming a member of the Art Ambassadors group I was introduced to an amazing opportunity that allowed me to participate in a teaching session for a classroom of fifth graders. During the teaching session we introduced an artist named Henry Lisi who painted, “Hill Scene,” a famous work showing how people during World War II found a new beginning by immigrating to the United States. Even though I did not teach this portion of the lesson plan I did present to the class the writing prompt for their consideration.

I had to do a colossal of things in order to present in an organized, articulate way. First, during the presentation, I offered important aspects to the fifth graders about writing an essay using dialogue. I explained to the students that dialogue can help any author bring their characters to life in a narrative story. Additionally, during this beneficial experience, I learned how to explain a rubric that pertained to a narrative writing piece. In order to keep the students’ attention, I had to learn to speak in a tone that was intriguing and interesting about the topic.

Although I was not a member of the Art Ambassadors and this project from the start, I was very happy to know that I could be included in the planning and presentation of the “Taking A Closer Look” program. This opportunity allowed me to experience something truly amazing that could help me fulfill my dream of becoming a teacher. I thank my classmates, Marie, Daria and Fadi along with Dr. Och and Dr. Sheahan for having me participate in this art and writing collaboration.

The four student Art Ambassadors reviewed all of the fifth graders’ narratives using a 20 point Fictional Narrative Rubric which included focus, content development, organization, style and conventions for a total of 20 points. According to the student Art Ambassadors, the winning essay by Laurel Bristow, demonstrated extremely creative writing focusing on a made-up story that could have happened, highly imaginative setting and characters with a well-developed plot leading to a richly entertaining story.

Using the Rubric Guide, the Art Ambassadors observed Laurel’s use of rich dialogue that added to the story about the people in Lisi’s painting, and acknowledged that her ideas were connected in a logical way and showed good transitions and theme. Laurel Bristow’s story about “Hill Scene,” revolves around two characters, an old house, trying to survive life’s hardships, and the value of truth and hard work.

Laurel B.’s narrative based on landscape painting of Henry Lisi titled, “Hill Scene”:
My name is Laurel. I am a little girl and my mother’s name is Elizabeth. We are a poor family in 1947, but that’s about to change.

First, my mama and I cannot afford clothes. All we have are a few old, ragged shirts, and a few pairs of dirty pants; no shoes or nothing. My mama was always searching for a job, but could never get one. One day, mama was about to give up. “I can not take it no more, always searching for a job, but always getting turned down; I give up,” mama said, shouting.

Next, I remembered something. “Mama, do you know about that old farmer man? I heard that he had loads of coal. We could sneak into his house and take some coal and sell it to get more money,” I said excitedly. “Good idea, Laurel. We could do that.”

Then, Mama and I got a lantern and headed off to our journey. When Mama and I got to his old house we noticed him planting in his front yard. “Mama, what should we do? He’s right there in his long yard?” So, Mama and I were thinking. I said, “How about we run quietly?” We did. We ran real fast, but also real quiet. We made it to the house, and there we saw a door different from all the other doors so we investigated. Inside the door we saw that it was filled with coal; I mean, stacks and stacks of it.

Finally, we grabbed as much as our hands could carry. We also put coal in our shirts. We then ran to our house. When we got home we went to the town and sold the coal. Mama and I were very rich. We thought our life was going to be great until Mama and I were sitting at home. Mama was polishing her new diamond ring and it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

The farmer slammed through the door, and caught us. “I know you took my coal,” he yelled angrily. “How dare you frame us. Where is the proof?” Mama said.

“I followed a track of coal which led to your house.” I felt so scared that I was crying. I think my Mama was, too. As the farmer was taking us to his house, my Mama told me, “Sorry for getting you into this. It is not a good example. You should always work for money, not steal.”


To see more artwork in the Friends of Art Collection at Pittsburgh Public Schools, check our our flickr slide show by clicking here.