St. Petersburg, Florida — “Why do you like it?” asks a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts.
It’s one of many questions that make kids think at the MFA as they explore art through the “Strokes of Genius” program. The program, which also teamed up with the Dali Museum this year, lets students from the Blossom Montessori School explore, then recreate, art.
“The students are connected through language, they’re connected through just the visual arts,” says Carol Downing with Blossom Montessori. “It’s an amazing program.”
Kids are encouraged to take it all in through the senses. But it’s a different experience when most of the students are deaf or hard of hearing.
“I think it is fascinating to look around and understand more about the art,” signs 12-year-old Lauren Santiago. “It really makes me want to express myself deeply. It goes right to my heart.”
Santiago actually just won a statewide art award for one of the pieces she created with Strokes of Genius. Through the program, students get to savor the artwork, focusing on what it looks like and how it makes them feel.
“I like looking at the pictures. The things are so beautifully made,” signs student Nathan Negron. “And now I am using it to make my own comic book.”
After they look at the art, they create art, shaping their ideas with clay, and showcasing dreams through mosaics or even peek boxes.
“Essentially they were able to create a scenario from a dream so it was really intimate, a space where you kind of have to peek into,” says Peter Tush, curator of Education at the Dali Museum.
And for the students, that’s the most fun part – understanding the art as a way to better understand themselves.
“It’s so much fun because when the kids recreate it, you just say, ‘Oh my gosh, the process they went through to understand it,’ says Downing.
Everything about Strokes of Genius, from transportation to museum admission, is donated by foundations including Publix Super Market Charities, the Harper Family Foundation and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.