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Hampshire Elementary students create group artwork

Jill White coordinator parent-run art program Hampshire Elementary School poses with artist Larry Schumacher Janesville Wisconsin.

Jill White, coordinator of the parent-run art program at Hampshire Elementary School, poses with artist Larry Schumacher of Janesville, Wisconsin.

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Updated: December 8, 2012 6:20AM

HAMPSHIRE — Wisconsin artist Larry Schumacher first became interested in painting when he was a fourth-grade student at a Catholic school and a nun allowed him to complete an art project.

Larry and his son, Hans, who is also an artist, worked with 126 fourth- and fifth-grade students at Hampshire Elementary School on Friday afternoon to paint two 20-by-18-foot canvases.

“We used unconventional tools such as a rubber chicken, toilet brush, fly swatter and duster along with paintbrushes,” Larry said. “In order to be creative, you must think outside the box. We created ‘energy art,’ where we allowed the students to attack the canvas without time to think of what they were painting. This is true art where there are no rules or regulations.”

The students on Friday were enthusiastic about painting the canvases.

“Art is my favorite subject,” said fourth-grade student Isabella Volpe. “I want to be an artist. I wish we had art every day.”

Gianna Robertazzo, also a fourth-grade student at Hampshire Elementary, picked a fly swatter as her paintbrush. “It was fun painting with weird objects,” she said.

Fourth-grade student Morgan Lowitzki used a rubber duck on a stick for painting. “I got to squeak it,” she said. “It was really cool to use different objects.”

The two canvases will be cut up into 126 different sizes. During a black tie event scheduled for 6 p.m. on Dec. 7 at Hampshire Elementary, the students who created the artwork will draw numbers to find out which piece of the canvas they will be able to keep.

“I truly appreciate the opportunity to have our kids learn a new medium,” Hampshire Elementary Principal David Scarpino said.

Scarpino said that he plans to don a tux and serve punch and cookies. The school’s choir, band and orchestra will perform. Donations for the school’s parent-led art program will be accepted.

Hampshire Elementary does not have a certified art teacher. Jill White, coordinator of the parent-run Art Works at the school, said she brought the program to Hampshire Elementary four years ago. While has two daughters, Sydney and Phoebe, who are both students at the school.

“We bought the program for around $5,000, and we now buy the materials to run it every year,” White said. “Students from kindergarten through fifth grade have an art class for one hour once a month. We have an art room at the school. The teacher stays with his or her class while a volunteer parent teaches it. This program works because we have so many volunteers. Parents here really care about their kids.”

The school’s annual Square One fundraiser provides money for the art program.

Teresa Wrzala has a son, Matthew, who is a fourth-grade student at Hampshire Elementary. When Teresa met Larry at Huntley Artfest, she asked if he could visit the students at Hampshire Elementary. Teresa said Larry’s paintings remind her of the artwork by abstract expressionist artist Jackson Pollock.

Wrzala wants to encourage students to become interested in art. “When students take art, their math and reading skills go up two levels,” Teresa said. “Bullying is decreased. It’s all about education and opening the minds of our youth.”

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