In fall of 2014, I started at a new school. As an educator, it's important that you find a tailored fit. I needed a school I could relate to as a human being. I found my partner in Wissahickon Charter, an environmentally focused school in North Philadelphia.
I had to convince a whole new batch of students and parents that what I created as Southwest Leadership Academy was worthwhile. With time and a lot of effort, it worked.
For our third season, Fresh Artists and I partnered with Serpico (Chef Peter Serpico), La Peg (Peter Woolsey), and Vernick Food & Drink (Chef Gregory Vernick) along with a second school, Meredith Elementary.
I began by teaching her students about the art of the still life, starting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art with a private tour of food-themed still life masterpieces in their collection led by Curator of Education for School and Teacher Programs, Barbara Bassett.
At each restaurant, students researched, met and interviewed the chef and discussed the design and branding of his restaurant. The tableaux were styled by acclaimed professional food photographers, Michael Persico and Jason Varney. Candid photographs of students inside the restaurant are captured by Neal Santos.
The students, as guests of the chef, were served the chef’s signature dish for lunch, then sketched a tableau of the meal in preparation for their final artwork project.
Returning to my art classroom, the children worked on their still life projects over a sixteen-week period, interpreting the masterpiece meals in acrylic paint using large photographic reproductions printed by Fresh Artists.
The Fresh Artists Palates-to-Palettes project culminates with several activities: a gala reception, tour of the state of the art teaching kitchens and sit-down luncheon on March 18 for the chefs and project donors called Le Grande Vernissage (French for “varnishing” or private preview) hosted by Chef Michael Traud at Drexel University's Center for Hospitality. At that time, the students’ artwork will be displayed and each participating chef will unveil his “Le Choix du Chef” (Chef’s Choice).