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Gower schools get kids, parents thinking about the arts

Sarah Oh had replication of “The Mona Lisa” down during Gower West and Middle schools’ Celebration of the Arts Exhibition.

She had the hair and the clothes, including the cape. She even had a picture frame that she held up in front her face as part of the event’s Live Art.

The only problem she had was keeping the somber face of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous subject.

“I have a hard time not smiling,” the sixth-grader giggled. “People stare at me and try to make me laugh. Some have some witty jokes.”

Oh and Jasmine Chamberlain took turns mimicking what has been called the best known, most visited, most written about, most sung about and most parodied work of art in the world.

Last week’s event, which was linked with the Gower Spring Band Concert, was an evening dedicated to the arts. It was the brain child of parent Janet Casini, a former graphic artist.

“This is our inaugural Celebration of the Arts,” Casini said as parents and students milled about a gymnasium full of artwork and live performances May 1 at Gower Middle School. “We have brought together music, the performing arts and collaborative art.”

The event included art exhibits, video viewing, Live Art re-enactments and live performances.

With help from Christina Mohil and other parents, Casini began putting the event together in January.

“It was morning ‘til night,” Casini said about the preparation process for the event. “It was crazy.”

Casini was one of the few people pleased with the recent stretch of cool and rainy weather. With kids not going outside for recess, she was able to pop into the Gower schools and help youths create art projects for the exhibition.

The parent of a Gower eighth-grader, Casini hopes she has laid the foundation for an arts event that continues as part of the Gower community. Casini thinks the Celebration of the Arts can be a Gower happening every two years.

“There is so much that goes in to it,” Casini said, feeling it may be overwhelming to put on the event annually.

One of the more popular activities was the Live Art re-enactments. Along with”The Mona Lisa,” other scenes included “American Gothic” (replicated by Genevieve Fox and Spencer Staak), “Dogs Playing Poker” (portrayed by Ryan Ables, Andrew Hoch, John Fakouri, Andrew Perez, Timothy Song and Luke Terrell) and “Self-Portrait with Monkey” (re-enacted by Olivia Mohil).

“Everyone has been looking at me,” said Mohil, who replicated Kahlo’s 1938 painting with flowers in her hair and gold chains around her neck. “A lot of people have said I look pretty.”

Sixth-grader Tyler Hillard walked around the event covered from head to toe in bronze body paint, re-enacting Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker.”

“It’s been cool and fun,” Hillard said of being the sculpture, an idea he got from a friend. A lot of people all seemed to have the same idea when they saw the walking piece of artwork.

“They said, “You’re going to have fun in the shower tonight,’” Hillard noted.

Anastasia Galinski, a third-grader at Gower West, drew a number of onlookers as she performed on the piano during the event.

When asked if she was nervous with parents and friends looking on, Galinski confidently said, “Not at all,” noting it was a piece she has been rehearsing for two months.

Galinski, who has been playing piano for more than five years, takes lessons through the Burr Ridge Park District.

“I like performing,” Galinski said.

Her father, Adolph, said he is continually amazed by Anastasia’s poise in front of a crowd.

“I am proud of her and each of our kids,” he said. “All three of them each have their own talents.”

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