March is Youth Art Month, and the art teacher at Sylvania's Central Elementary School is observing it in her own creative way.
Tina Arndt wears a jacket covered with 370 art pins she has made and collected over the years, and her students are challenged to identify them in terms of the artist, period, or culture the pins represent.
There are some famous names to be sure, from Braque and Chagall to Duchamp, Dufy, Gauguin, Lichtenstein, Mondrian, Monet, Pissaro, Pollock, Rembrandt, Toulouse-Lautrec, Velasquez, Whistler, and Wyeth, to name a few.
Periods and cultures include Egyptian, Asian, Greek, Roman, Indian, and African.
The children are allowed to use reference books. They cluster around Ms. Arndt examining the pins, then check off the ones they can identify against a list they have. Some of the pins even have a local significance. Ms. Arndt has one given to her by the late Keith Haring during an appearance at the Toledo Museum of Art. He was known for his pop art and graffiti art. She also has pins from the museum's well-known Rubens and Impressionism shows.
The teacher said her art-pin jacket is a good way to imbue her young charges with a feel for art, even though they haven't yet reached the stage where they can intellectualize an artist or period the way an art historian does.
"A lot of art education, especially for young kids, is not me up there lecturing," she explained. "It's osmosis."
Ms. Arndt adds incentives for the children, such as crayons and erasers. Every child gets a certificate, and the one from each grade level who identifies the most pins has his or her name announced for a modest moment of fame.
"I feel like a flower surrounded by bees," she said, as throngs of children sidled up to her to get a look at the pins.
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Principal Toni Gerber said the art-pin jacket was an effective tool Ms. Arndt used every March for Youth Art Month.
"The children build on their knowledge from year to year. She works this into the curriculum," she said. "The kids can tell her from year to year how many artists they know. They can remember. It's really important to them."
Indeed, Ms. Arndt said the art-pin jacket makes her a star. "I have kids skipping recess and staying after school to come see me," she said.
The students, for their part, are happy to talk about the pins they have identified.
Sage Ulery, a second grader, said she identified 16 pins, while her classmates Ian Smith and Jack Burke identified 20 and nine respectively.
Sage said her favorite art cultures were ancient Egyptian and Native American.