Teachers follow the greats

Tour of Europe walks in Impressionists’ footprints

Cathy Spaulding, Phoenix Staff Writer

As you read this, two Sadler Arts Academy teachers are in Europe, seeking to make a good impression for their students.

Third-grade teacher Ronia Davison and eighth-grade teacher Georgie Chapuis will spend the next month visiting places that inspired Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Vincent Van Gogh. Their tour is funded with a $10,000 grant from Fund For Teachers, a nonprofit organization that provides grants for teachers’ summer sabbaticals.

“Our grant application said we will be walking in the footsteps of the Impressionists, where they set their easels and, with a brush stroke, everything changed,” Davison said.

Impressionism was an artistic movement that developed in primarily in France in the mid 19th Century and is characterized by recording visual reality through light and color.

“The more we can know about art and art history, the better we’ll be,” said Sadler Principal Maudye Winget.

Davison and Chapuis left early Wednesday morning for the tour, which includes nine Impressionist tours in Paris alone, plus day trips to Girveney to study Monet; to Provence, where VanGogh was inspired for his “Starry Night” painting; to LeHavre in Normandy, the French artist colony of Honfleur and to Amsterdam.

“We have a 15-day Eurail Pass,” Davison said, referring to passes that allow train travel in and among European countries. She said she and Chapuis designed their own itinerary.

The teachers also will visit famous museums such as the Tate in London and the Metropolitan Museum in New York City that show works of Impressionists and other artists.

They aren’t limiting their learning to impressionists. The two also will visit Rome, Vienna and parts of Germany and Switzerland.

Ronia Davison and Georgie Chapuis bone up on Impressionism before their trip to Europe to study it. Staff photo by Reginald Richmond

Chapuis said her son lives in Wiesbaden, Germany, their first destination upon arriving in Europe.

Upon their return, Chapuis and Davison will lead studies of Impressionism at every grade level at Sadler.

Davison said her third-graders could learn “appreciation for art and for natural beauty.

Chapuis said her eighth-graders could learn how Impressionist artists were inspired and influenced.

“Renoir was family, (Edouard) Degas was dancers, Mary Cassat, an American, focused on mothers and children,” she said. “Americans embraced Impressionism before the Europeans because we rebelled against the norm.”

The learning won’t stop when the two return, either.

Winget said the Sadler faculty will take a one-day field trip to the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, which will have an Impressionist display June 29 to Nov. 2.

The two also will set up six art stations throughout Sadler to focus on different artists: Monet, Pissaro, Degas, Renoir, Cassatt and VanGogh. The stations will feature student art inspired by the artists.

Their ultimate project at the school is to make an Impressionists Walk at Sadler and dedicate it to the memory of Terry Ball, husband and father of Sadler fourth grade teachers Cindy and Caitlyn Ball.

Winget said the school’s playground is Eliott Park. Sadler is working with the City of Muskogee to put up places where students can put easels and paint vistas and landscapes, Winget said.

“Terry Ball was a great supporter of the arts,” Winget said.