DENHAM SPRINGS -- Thierry Santangelo couldn’t stop staring at his painting hanging on the wall.

After all, this was the first art show for the third-grader at Lewis Vincent Elementary, who showed up to the artists reception dressed in his Sunday best — a crisp dotted white button-down and a dark blue tie speckled with tiny dinosaurs.

The 10-year-old said he could get used to days like this.

“This is my first art show, but I want my art to be in a museum one day,” he said. “And I want to make a big sculpture.”

He’s off to a good start.

Santangelo is one of two dozen Lewis Vincent Elementary students who’ve had their artwork on display at the Arts Council of Livingston Parish (ACLP) this month.

Throughout March, the walls in the ACLP classroom have been filled with student-made acrylic paintings of Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.” The paintings were completed during a five-lesson program sponsored by the Arts Council, which received an anonymous grant to fund art classes at schools in the parish.

While students, their families and visitors perused the various starry night paintings, Santangelo proudly held up his own, which like the others featured seven gold stars and a crescent moon shining down on a small village.

He had fun painting this picture, he said, as well as learning about some of history’s most famous artists — Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Leonardo da Vinci — during the ACLP program.

“Van Gogh, Picasso, da Vinci, they’re all pretty good,” he said, drawing laughs from Lewis Vincent Elementary teachers Tiffini Ellis and Donna Quigley.

Lewis Vincent Elementary is one of 13 schools the Arts Council has sent professional artists to this year thanks to a grant underwritten by an anonymous donor, former ACLP president Mary Felder said. The grant paid for the teachers and the supplies that were used in 34 art classes across the parish, including in Denham Springs, Springfield, Albany, and Holden.

The lessons have been taught by local artists Robert Reynolds, Liz Harman, Rosemary Patchen, Martin Gentry and Sara Smith, who covered both visual and performing arts with students.

Sixty-two students took part in the course at Lewis Vincent Elementary, where Harman and Patchen visited three classes once a month to discuss different mediums and artists before having the students create their own artwork.

In the first lesson last fall, Harman and Patchen had students make their own portfolios, Ellis said. In later classes, they had them work with chalk and make a still-life illustration of an apple. “The Starry Night” paintings on display were completed over two classes. 

Quigley said the students “looked forward to every class.”

“What was so impressive is that they retained the knowledge from lesson to lesson about each of the artists that were introduced and the elements of art they studied,” Quigley said. “They remembered all of it, and they were excited when the artists came. They couldn’t wait for those days.”

The paintings will be on display through the end of March, when the Arts Council will clear out space for its upcoming “Wonders of the World” exhibit in April and May.

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