(Photo by Michelle Felter, Staff)
"It's rich in history and the artwork is very appealing," said Ann Thompson, children's librarian at the Sikeston Public Library, one of the local recipients. "And the best thing about it is that it's appealing to an intergenerational audience."
The exhibit includes a total of 40 high-quality reproductions of notable American art on 20 laminated posters. A small description of the art is affixed to the bottom of each.
Also receiving the grant for the exhibit are R.A. Doyle Elementary, A.J. Martin Elementary and the junior high and senior high school in East Prairie.
"Our attention was brought that this program was going to be offered, and we thought it would be a great way for students to experience art and different artists within the school setting," said Michelle McGruder, chairperson for the arts committee at East Prairie Schools, which applied for the grant. "A lot of our students won't get the opportunity to visit an art gallery or go to national monuments, so this is like bringing the museum to their school."
And that was what the NEH had in mind when offering grants for the exhibit. According to literature, its purpose is to bring masterpieces of American art into classrooms and libraries nationwide, with the goal of giving students and citizens a deeper appreciation of the country's history and character through the study and understanding of its art.
Sue Tangeman, director of the Sikeston Public Library, noted that a resource book accompanies the exhibit. "It has an activity suggested area for teachers and breaks it down into the grade levels," she said. Additional educational resources are also available on the NEH Web site.
The library is also working to add more to the exhibit to enrich knowledge.
"We're going to have a book display under each one about the time in history and the artist," Thompson said.
Jackie Cowan, a member of the library board, said the library mailed notices about the exhibit to schools and art teachers around the area. It included an invitation to set up a field trip and an offer for the library to bring it to the schools, too, to coincide with classroom curriculum.
"It's portable, and it goes all the way from elementary to high school," said Thompson.
Teachers in East Prairie plan to incorporate the exhibit into their lesson plans whenever possible, said McGruder.
"It's a little bit different for the young ones, but as you move up in grade levels, the exhibit will have more of an impact on history and art lessons," she said. "We're just really grateful that we got this opportunity because it can broaden our students."
Something unique is that the exhibit does apply to so many ages and generations, said McGruder. Thompson agreed, saying that's something she noted when she received an e-mail about the grant application for the exhibit.
"What really caught my eye is that it's geared toward elementary to high school students," said Thompson, noting that is a big issue to her as children's librarian.
One of her favorite posters depicts a migrant mother in the 1930s, during the Great Depression.
"It shows America at its lowest time," said Thompson. "But it shows how our country is so strong that it can just bounce back."
At the library, the posters will be displayed in the resource area and the McAmis Community Room. According to Tangeman, the location of each poster will rotate.
In East Prairie Schools, the exhibits will be in libraries if the wall space is available, or in the main buildings, said McGruder.
Other schools and libraries around the area that received the exhibit include: Kelso C-7 in New Hamburg, St. Ambrose in Chaffee, Dexter High School, St. Augustine in Kelso, Lilbourn Elementary in Portageville, the Scott County Central District Library, Scott County Central Elementary; and the Oran, Scott City and Benton branches of the Riverside Regional Library.
The exhibit will be on display at the locations through May. This was the program's first nationwide application period. In 2009, Picturing America will be offered to more schools and libraries and applications are currently being accepted.
What: Picturing America art history exhibit opening reception
When: 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Sikeston Public Library
The event is open to the pubic and will include refreshments and music by Sikeston guitarist Zach Swift