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True Colors: Young Art Pupils Get The Picture

SCARSDALE, N.Y. – Color Nancy Closter's professional world bright and cheerful.

Closter teaches elementary art at the Greenacres School. Her classes include lots of coloring and other traditional methods, but they also are meant to introduce Scarsdale's youngest pupils to certain concepts.

A poster on a wall decorated with cutout, colored pictures of crayons, for instance, asks the question, "What would life be like if we were all the same?" The poster, titled "A Multicutural Theme," continues: "We are enriched by the many cultures, traditions and backgrounds in our school and community. We are all different, unique and special."

The life lesson mixed with art is typical of the melding of subjects throughout the Scarsdale school system, where art teachers routinely collaborate with academic instructors on advanced projects to enhance creativity and focus.

It all starts, though, with the simplest of lessons. "In kindergarten, we start by finding lines, shapes and colors, and then everything starts coming," Closter said.

And it comes fast. In October, Closter put up a hall display of kindergarten paintings that she said were takeoffs on Piet Mondrian, a Dutch painter from the first half of the 20th century. The exhibit, titled "Broadway, Boogie Woogie," is a study of primary colors with a bit of weaving thrown in.

"In kindergarten, I see them two times every six days for 40 minutes," she said. "The rest of the grades I see once for 50 minutes. The lessons have to be pretty strong. The kindergarteners love art. They want to jump in, but they have to have balance. ... Kindergarten is the first time they have had to sit and listen. We give them a little focus and lot of work time, creativity time."

By time they reach third and fourth grade, Closter said, "I like them to write something" to go with the artwork, "to tie in academics."

She said a professional photographer will be visiting Mondays throughout February. "We'll get the kids to bring their cameras and teach them how to be comfortable to take them on field trips, then come home and create a journal."

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