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Dictionary The Focus Of Private School's Public Art Exhibit

Published: Friday, February 27, 2015 - 5:23pm
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(Image courtesy of Peter Tunney)
The print for "K."
(Image courtesy of Peter Tunney)
The print for "V."

This week, a Valley private school welcomed visitors for an open house of sorts. But not to check out the classrooms and curriculum — they were there for an art exhibit.

Leigh Anne Kreykes is Fine Arts Director of Rancho Solano Preparatory School in Scottsdale. She’s showing me around “Dictionary Daze,” featuring works by the artist Peter Tunney.

There are 26 pieces, all representing a letter of the alphabet, spread throughout the school.

"Part of the experience of the exhibit is guessing, or understanding, which word is being showcased, which letter of the alphabet is being showcased in this work," Kreykes said.

Kreykes says the letters are not in alphabetical order – and in some cases, it can be kind of hard to tell what letter a print represents.

The pieces are here, at least in part, because a parent knows the artist, and helped arrange for the exhibit. The pieces themselves are pretty big, and include pages from a 1920s dictionary, with color blocking and layering on top.

Dr. Audrey Menard is Head of School at Rancho Solano.

"There’s been a lot of conversation around words and what they mean and that words have many layers of meanings, and so it’s definitely raised the level of conversation," Menard said.

Menard said the school aims to help its students become innovators – and that going a little "old school" is helping in that effort.

"In this age of technology, as I’m holding my cell phone, people have stopped using words in the way that they used to be," she said.

The tours are generally led by student docents – Menard says that’s teaching them how to look someone in the eye and give them information.

Eighth grade student Sophie Wu is one of the docents, and she calls the exhibit inspiring.

"It’s beautiful, and we’re learning from it, we’re doing print and stuff," she said. "It teaches us, this is more like Pop Art, it makes you re-think what is art, and when we see this, you examine the aspects of it and you’re like, wow, this is cool."

As we head upstairs to see the 16 pieces on the second floor, Kreykes said she sees students and teachers stopping to look at the art. She said the pieces require critical thinking – a skill the school tries to impart on its students.

"All of our classes – arts, language arts, science, math – are not about finding the answer right away, but how do you know what you know? And, can you legitimize and analyze why you know that, and in a very high level of thinking, be able to give reason for what you believe," she said.

Menard echoes that sentiment, and says part of the school’s goal is to make its students more comfortable with ambiguity.

"You’ll see the innovation with the old and the new. You’ll see kids having to think and create what their own impressions are," Menard said. "And, we also believe arts are a key part of our education, and so bringing art and education together, so it fits really beautifully with our mission."
Menard says the school encourages students to think about art holistically – who the artist is, what’s their inspiration and how they create their work.

Kreykes says this exhibit is helping art students learn about modern art and pop art techniques.

"But the fact that the art is spread around the whole school building, that it’s completely interdisciplinary, that it has so much language arts, that it has so much history, and it has so much just visual art in it," she said. "I think all the kids are just being reminded how art isn’t just a thing unto itself, that it truly is the intertwining of everything that they’re learning."

The exhibit, “Dictionary Daze: An Exploration of the Lexicon A-Z” will be at Rancho Solano in Scottsdale for a year. It will be open to the public next on March 26.

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