Students go to school with Picasso, van Gogh, Warhol and more

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Special to the Recorder 

It is the start of an ordinary day at Palm Valley Academy in Nocatee. 

Students unload from school buses, golf carts and bikes, and enter hallways lined with the art of Rembrandt, Picasso, Haring, Warhol and other great artists. There are 160 mat-to-frame, fine art reproductions filling the common areas of the school, plus colorful, student-created murals featuring uplifting “ARTspirational” messages. This cultural experience was made possible thanks to a generous donation from THE PLAYERS and guidance from the Ponte Vedra Public Education Foundation.

“When you are a new school, it is a big, blank canvas,” said Jessica Richardson, Palm Valley Academy principal. “It is a large place to fill, and you’ve got to appeal to little kids up on to teenagers. You have to warm things up.” 

After touring other schools in the months prior to Palm Valley Academy’s opening in August 2018, Richardson knew about the art enrichment programs the Ponte Vedra Public Education Foundation had completed in other schools, and she wanted to do the same in her school. She decided to use the entire $50,000 one-time gift from THE PLAYERS to create the art gallery.

The art collection was curated by the Ponte Vedra Public Education Foundation to include pieces from all major genres and periods, including impressionism, abstract, expressionism, photography, modern and classical. Signage for each piece identifies the artist and title. To make it interactive, 10 pieces of art have QR Codes (square barcodes), allowing viewers to scan and learn more about the piece. By the start of the 2019-2020 school year, all artwork will have a QR code and will be cataloged for easy discovery within the school. 

Art galleries not limited to Palm Valley Academy

Thanks to the Ponte Vedra Public Education Foundation, more than 450 art pieces have been installed in Ponte Vedra public schools through the organization’s “I Go To School In An Art Gallery” program. 

Ponte Vedra Public Education Foundation developed the program to stimulate creative thinking, influence behavior and enhance Ponte Vedra public schools. To date, there are 488 pieces installed in PVPV/Rawlings Elementary, Ocean Palms Elementary, Landrum Middle School, Valley Ridge Elementary, Palm Valley Academy, Nease High School and Ponte Vedra High School. More pieces are expected to be installed in the near future.

“We know children are influenced by their environment, and that is why the Ponte Vedra Public Education Foundation created the program,” said Michael Hannon, president of the Ponte Vedra Public Education Foundation. “We look forward to seeing how these famed artists will inspire and stimulate our children’s minds and the many generations to come.” 

PVPV/Rawlings Elementary School Principal Catherine Van Housen said they love their artwork. 

“It brightens up our hallways near both cafeterias, which were kind of institutional-looking,” Van Housen said. “We also have beautiful clusters of artwork throughout our campus. It makes us feel proud of our learning environment. Students frequently make connections to van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ because our art teachers explain how it encompasses all of the elements of art and several principles of design.” 

Van Housen added, “Our hope is that students will stand in a museum in front of a Monet or a van Gogh and think, ‘Hey, we have that at our school!’”

Funding for the “I Go To School In An Art Gallery” program was made possible by a one-time charitable gift from The Ponte Vedra Women’s Civic Alliance, and by a special grant from the PGA TOUR.

The “I Go To School In An Art Gallery” Program is just one of many enrichment programs offered by the nonprofit Ponte Vedra Public Education Foundation. In addition to providing public school teachers with grants to enhance their classroom instruction, the organization raises funds to enrich student learning through the arts and support school beautification efforts through artwork, landscaping, sculpture and more. Funding is provided by donations from the public and organizations. 

For more information about the Ponte Vedra Public Education Foundation, email President Michael Hannon at mhannon5@aol.com.

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