Heather Chu Marvill works with lower school students on their art projects.

by Meg Cohen Ragasa

It’s a typical spring morning at Germantown Friends School — flowers tentatively poking out of the beds beneath the Lower School science room, high school students draped across the front steps of the main building chatting in small groups and middle schoolers hurrying to their homerooms. But one thing is different from a typical GFS day: The walls of each division building are covered with student artwork.

This afternoon and evening mark the second annual GFS All School Art Show, one of the year’s most anticipated events.  A culmination of the students’ yearlong art curriculum, the show features work by each Lower School and Middle School student, and all Upper School students who elect to take art.

“It’s the first opportunity for many families to see what their children have been working on this year,” said Lower School art teacher Heather Chu Marvill, whose Kindergarten through fifth-grade students will show works ranging from Georgia O’Keefe-influenced flower paintings to African silk bird batiks to a claymation movie.

These projects demonstrate children’s skill building and problem solving, as well as reference art history.

“It’s a wonderful way of seeing what each grade is doing and a sneak preview of what families can expect in years to come,” she said.

The show’s scope includes a heavy dose of self-portraits by Upper School art students, from the Drawing and Painting classes’ charcoal drawings to Color and Design’s graphic, Andy Warhol-inspired canvases.

In the Middle School, students tackle observational drawing, to define “positive” and “negative” space, and the ideas of rhythm, repetition and variation to create interesting visual spaces by cutting paper into shapes and arranging them on white paper as if pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, exploring the principles of movement, symmetry, asymmetry and organic versus stable. Oil painting, photography, collage and 3-D installations round out the mix.

GFS Art Department Head Susan Lowry attributes this artistic range to her faculty’s diverse talents.

“Each teacher brings their own special aesthetic to their classroom,” Chu Marvill said. “They may be doing the same projects and following the same curriculum, but each class is a bit different based on the teacher’s passions and influences.”

And the end result – of an entire year’s work hung side by side on the many surfaces of the GFS school buildings – is nothing short of powerful.

Germantown Friends School 2011 All School Art Show, Thursday, May 26: Lower School Reception, 4:30-6:30 p.m. in the Cary Building and Library; Middle School Reception, 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Sharpless Building; Upper School Reception, 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Main Building.