Sharon Holtzman, a contributor to Ophir’s art programs for 10 years, spearheaded the Art Around the Corner program at the school. Based in D.C., Art Around the Corner was established for inner city kids to learn and experience art at the National Gallery.
Holtzman worked as a guide and teacher for the Art Around the Corner Program at the National Gallery in Washington D.C. for 10 years before she and her husband moved to Big Sky 11 years ago. She brought a letter of recommendation from the Gallery with her to Ophir the year she moved here, and with the help of the school board chairman, Jerry Scott, the Art Around the Corner program was introduced the following year.
Ophir is the only school outside of the District of Columbia involved in Art Around the Corner. Because of her efforts, Holtzman was invited to speak at the 2005 National Docent Symposium in Boston to discuss how to bring museum programs to local schools.
Holtzman has created a series of lectures, slideshows, and interpretive and hands-on activities that parallel the D.C. program, and prepares the students for their day at the National Gallery during their trip. The final project is to choose their favorite work of art from a collection of gallery reproductions and research the artist and their painting.
The fun part of the curriculum is “the surprise on their faces when they see the work of art they spent so much time studying,” said Holtzman. “They start talking about the painting, and tourists listen in. It’s special for them.”
This year during an art exhibition prepared for the students’ families, students will display their artwork which includes oil paintings, paper cutouts inspired by artist Matisse and their Copying the Masters project. Their favorite works of art and research papers are also displayed at the exhibition on May 23. At the event, Holtzman’s husband will dress up in black tie and serve the kids refreshments and strawberries “to simulate what they do for the kids in D.C.”
Other local artists have assisted in the preparation and curriculum of the trip and ARTC. Jackie Rainford made tiles with the class and sold the artwork at By Word of Mouth, and introduced the kids to oil painting. In the past, Jill Zeidler helped students create the ceramic works now hanging from the library ceiling, and Jill Bough taught photography. Alec Nisbet and Jolene Swanke, art teachers at Ophir, have also assisted in ARTC.
The National Gallery publishes students’ work each year, and in past years they’ve printed poems, paintings, drawings and photos from Ophir students.