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Three decades it's been now, since the start of the annual Art Night at Woodstock's Lewis School

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Jesse Lindley-Sanchez, a Lewis fifth grader, likes the meditative quality of doing abstract colorful line designs. Jesse is also an experienced violinist, who played in this years talent show.  The halls were packed elbow-to-elbow, as students, parents, grandparents, and friends wended their way through small spaces, admiring walls full of artwork by children from every classroom in the school.

Meriwether Lewis Elementary School, at S.E. 44th and Evergreen Street in Woodstock, hosted its 30th Annual Art Night on the "First Thursday" of May – a momentous occasion, celebrating three decades of successful student exhibits at the school.

The annual art exhibits evolved originally from the "Discipline Based Art Education" (DBAE) program that was begun in the 1980's. While DBAE is no longer a district-wide curriculum, Lewis School continues to teach the principles of the program initiated thirty years ago by now-retired second grade teacher Debra Swan.

The word "discipline" in the title DBAE might be misleading. "Discipline" in the DBAE program has nothing to do with punishment, but refers to the practice of studying four different disciplines: Art production, art history, art criticism, and aesthetics.

A major part of DBAE over the years has been studying the works of classic artists. The art production by students can include paintings, drawings, sculpture, and fine and applied craft and folk arts – such as ceramics, weaving and other textile arts, and photography.

In the halls of Lewis School this year, some of all of those genres were represented and hung by parents and teachers in the hallways during the last week of April in preparation for First Thursday.

COURTESY OF AIMEE OWENS - Cambria Owens, a fifth grader art docent at Lewis Elementary School (who herself rather resembles da Vincis Mona Lisa), stands beside her red, purple, and blue flower rendering. The students studied the famous flower painter Georgia OKeefe, and drew in her style.      Teacher Sarah Kohn's fifth grade class happened to study the paintings of Georgia O'Keefe, an American artist best known for her paintings of enlarged flowers. Student art docent Cambria Owens from Kohn's class said that she was excited to learn about O'Keefe, and to replicate one of her paintings. From age two, Cambria was given art lessons by her grandmother, an artist, who taught her about line, shape, and color.

"We study line, shape, color, like my grandmother taught me. And I really like that she [O'Keefe] was a woman artist when artists were mostly men. She was unique. I like flowers in nature, so I liked studying [and duplicating] her art," Cambria told THE BEE.

Nathan Gilmore, also a student docent, said about O'Keefe, "I like all the different kinds of flowers she painted, and the way she zoomed in on them. Ms. Kohn let us look at pictures of her [O'Keefe's] flowers on the computer, and we chose one to inspire us." The students used colored markers to draw their renditions of O'Keefe's paintings.

Jesse Lindley-Sanchez, also a student docent in Ms. Kohn's 5th grade class, described how he felt during another art project, in which each student drew a design using rich colors, and then cut it into nine pieces and rearranged them. "When I'm drawing those colored designs, I feel peaceful and calm. The sensation of doing it, and seeing the colors pop out, is amazing!"

Each wall in every hallway of the school was filled with students' art of all kinds. One particularly Portland theme were illustrations of Langston Hugh's poem "April Rain Song" done by Jill Brenan's second grade class.

Lewis music teacher Tony Jamesbarry, who has been a part of the school's Art Committee of parents and staff for twenty years, was a major organizer of this year's First Thursday evening. Halfway through the evening, he presented a student musical performance in the cafeteria's "Paintbrush Café", where desserts were available, with proceeds benefiting the art program. If you missed it this year, the thirty-first annual Art Night at Lewis Elementary will be on the First Thursday of May next year.

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