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Mountaineer Montessori School to mark 40th year with ‘Paint the Town’ fundraiser

By Clint Thomas, Metro Reporter
Artist Chad Cordell’s re-creation of “A Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda.” Courtesy photo
JoEllen Zacks’ re-creation of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.” Courtesy photo
Mountaineer Montessori School students are subjects in the re-creation of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Dancing at the Moulin de la Galette” by Mark Wolfe.
Kanawha City studio owner and artist Mike Winland created this homage to Raphael’s “The School of Athens” for Mountaineer Montessori School. Courtesy photo
Artist Mike Hall and Mountaineer Montessori School students collaborated on this re-creation of “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat. Courtesy photo

With more than a few strokes of paint, genius and creative flair, Kanawha City’s Mountaineer Montessori School is celebrating its 40th anniversary in a colorful, one-of-a-kind way this month.

During April, eight MMS classes partnered with West Virginia photographers and artists to re-create famous works of art. Through the collaboration, students have become “part of the picture” in classic scenes by artists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Grant Wood, Georges Seurat, Raphael, Diego Rivera and others.

“Arts have been integral in the Montessori curriculum from the beginning,” said JoEllen Zacks, an MMS parent volunteer and MMS Board of Directors member. “We wanted to come up with something special to highlight the arts and academic achievement for the 40th anniversary. We started looking at famous works of art. I thought what better way to bring art to life than to have our students become pieces of art. They can experience creating with their hands, but they can also experience it by becoming part of art and bringing it to life.

“When the students got into costumes and got into the scene, it really made them appreciate what these artists were doing.

“This really dovetailed with what they were learning in their classes, as well,” she said. “This project really supported deeper learning in those areas.”

Burns Exposure Photography, Chad Cordell, Chris Gosses, Mike Hall, Mike Winland and Mark Wolfe are among the participating artists and photographers who contributed their tools and talents to the unique paean to art masters.

“We were really excited to work with these photographers. They all donated their time and services. We’re so grateful to them. I think it’s going to be a lifelong memory for these children to have created it ... and it’ll be a nice memory for their parents, as well,” Zacks said.

Winland said his contribution to the project, a re-creation of Italian Renaissance painter Raphael’s “School of Athens” fresco, was selected for him by MMS.

“I was impressed with the children, with their costumes and their dedication, and for their professionalism for being little kids,” he said. “It was an honor for them to ask me to do it. We shot in a couple of locations and it took a couple of hours.

“This was my first project with Mountaineer Montessori,” the owner of Mike Winland Studios in Kanawha City said, “but I’m looking forward to doing more with them.”

Zacks also photographed a tribute to Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” with the MMS students for the project. “It was the largest group. It was a little challenging, but lots of fun. Once they got their overalls on and their pitchforks, they really enjoyed it,” she said.

The eight “Montessori Masterpieces” will be auctioned at “Paint the Town,” MMS’ spring gala, which will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, May 20, at the Columbia Gas Transmission Building, 1700 MacCorkle Ave., S.E., Charleston.

Along with the auction of the art works, the evening will commemorate 40 years of education and honor the contributions of MMS art educators and guest teachers Charly Hamilton, Nancy Johnston and Barrie Kaufman. “They’ve inspired creative and academic achievement at Mountaineer Montessori,” Zacks said, “and some of their former students are coming back to honor them.”

Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served, with entertainment by Steven Himes and The Voodoo Katz during the evening. “Paint the Town” will also feature other live and silent auctions, as well as a “Party and Paint” station for adults to express their artistic creativity.

Proceeds will benefit the school’s teacher appreciation, financial aid and specialty programming.

“Paint the Town” tickets start at $75. They can be ordered at or by calling 304-342-7870.

Zacks said the public can get a preview look at the “Montessori Masterpieces” during the Charleston Artwalk from 5 until 8 p.m. Thursday, May 18, at the Capitol Conference Center, 815 Lee St., E., Charleston.

She added that along with the originals that will be auctioned at “Paint the Town,” prints of the eight works will be available for purchase in the near future.

Founded in 1976, MMS is the largest and longest-established Montessori school in West Virginia, serving 125 students ages 3 to14. It is home to the only Montessori middle school in the state and is located at 308 20th St. in Charleston.


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