Students in Catholic schools throughout the Albany Diocese contributed to Spring Enrichment in a big way this year: They crafted the life-sized saints that will line the gym at The College of Saint Rose in Albany alongside cloth "flames" to epitomize the Spring Enrichment theme, "Filled with the Spirit."
Ten schools accepted a challenge from the diocesan Office of Evangelization, Catechesis and Family Life to research the holy men and women, sketch the figures and paint them onto fiberboard in just a few months. Some art teachers incorporated the project into class time; others used special clubs or students' free time.
A half-dozen third- and sixth-graders at St. Augustine's School in Troy chose the latter route. Their teacher, Mary Kay Brown, did the drawing and priming, and the students did the painting in one four-hour session. Many of them had already learned about their figure, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, when the native of the Albany Diocese was canonized last fall.
"I think the kids like it and they like the finished product," Mrs. Brown said. "Kids like contributing to something that goes out and becomes part of a bigger picture. Once they get going, there's no stopping them."
Mrs. Brown said the project taught the students such artistic concepts as proportion, texture, mixing colors and painting techniques.
At Holy Spirit School in East Greenbush, 20 members of an oil painting club collaborated on the figure of Blessed Pope John XXIII. The art teacher, Patricia Cahill, helped the fourth- through seventh-graders study the late pope. Mrs. Cahill took care of the drawing, and the children sealed the board with gesso and used acrylic paint to add the colors.
Everyone learned something new. Mrs. Cahill didn't know Pope John XXIII wasn't already canonized. The students, she said, "were quite fascinated with the changes" in the Church brought about by the Second Vatican Council, which Pope John XXIII convened in 1962.
Carole Warburton's junior and senior art students at Bishop Maginn High School in Albany were intrigued by their subjects, Ss. Marianne Cope and Damien of Molokai, both Americans who spent years caring for lepers on a Hawaiian island. They asked questions like, "Did the missionaries get leprosy?" "Wasn't it hot in Hawaii? So why did they wear heavy clothing?" and "Why was Damien's skin so ruddy?"
Ms. Warburton says her students wouldn't have had the opportunity to learn about those saints without the project.
"They're very engaged with it and they're very fascinated with the story behind these saints," she said. "When you partner history with art, you create much greater relevance for the student. [In addition], they're aware of what happens to art when it goes out into the community."
Rev. Dan Quinn, associate pastor at Blessed Sacrament parish in Albany, has a background in the arts and helped the OECFL oversee the project and carve the saints' silhouettes.
"We were looking for the people who were filled with the spirit," he said of the holy men and women chosen to be portrayed. "Making them full-sized kind of gives you the ability to have a conversation with them" and gives students "a sense of what Christian art is, how it's different."