Creating a work of art: Bringing nature indoors

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 5, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / April 5, 2000

There was a spot on the wall in Vincent Fouchi’s classroom at St. RosePrimary, and three students knew just how to fill it – with a 6-foot-long painting.

Third-graders Kaylah Stevens and Lionel Washington and fourth-grader Alex Gruntz worked for months on an extension of a mural in Fouchi’s classroom originally painted in 1996.

“He told us a story of going to the zoo, so me and Lionel thought of painting a zoo,” Kaylah, the daughter of Patrick J. and Lynda Stevens, said. “I’ve beendrawing since I was 2 years old.”The original two panels include a house and school and several people with large balloons.

She painted the tiger and the monkey, among several animals depicted on Audubon Zoo’s Monkey Hill.

Lionel, son of Lionel and Javonda Washington, added his touches, painting a group of people looking through a telescope at Saturn, plus the stars, river and a turtle. He also helped his Talented Art teacher, John Taube, in a NewOrleans cityscape, including the Superdome, a streetcar, a plantation house and the Hale Boggs Bridge.

Alex, who moved away in December, contributed many of the tropical fish and a dolphin.

The effect is a panorama of animals at peace, living in harmony with each other and with people, each item carefully labeled. It’s a calm scene, muchlike that of St. Rose Primary itself.”The children here are wonderful,” said Fouchi, who supplied the paints and board toward the project but insisted the children were the real driving force, developing the mural on their own.

“They researched every bit of it,” Fouchi added.

Not bad for elementary school students who Fouchi taught how to read.

“They looked up words to make sure they spelled them correctly, and rough- sketched it on paper first,” he said.

Work began on the project last fall, and the students spent roughly four months completing the work, now a permanent addition to Fouchi’s room.

Both Kaylah and Lionel love their artwork, so much so that Lionel was honored by having his Christmas card design adopted by the St. CharlesSchool Board this year in the annual student art contest.

“I like to draw cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse and Popeye,” Lionel said.

Kaylah added, “I like to draw animals and jet planes.”After the mural was completed, the children were rewarded with a pizza party and the satisfaction of seeing their vision come to life.

“And I can’t even draw a straight line with a ruler,” Fouchi said, proud of his students.

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