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How did a world-famous van Gogh get into fifth grade?

Students get up-close to replica of famous work

Lowell — The enthusiasm for Lori Coffman’s fifth-grade art class can be heard through the halls of Murray Lake Elementary School. Along with chatter of upcoming ArtPrize entries and sketches made in class, students are talking about a famous painting sent to their school. 

Thanks to their teacher, a framed replica of Vincent van Gogh’s “The Bedroom” was shipped to their classroom from the Netherlands.

After studying the painting and learning about the artist, Taryn Freyling said, “I’m a lot like van Gogh. I even like to draw interior design and rooms and stuff.”

Coffman first heard about the opportunity to get the replica in the fall through professional development at Detroit Institute of Arts, where a representative from Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands presented an opportunity known as Heart for Art, which sends out replica paintings of van Gogh’s ‘The Bedroom’ and lessons to go with it. Heart for Art launched in the U.S. last November, sending 3D-printed replicas to 30 educational organizations, including Murray Lake Elementary.

While introducing the painting, Coffman pointed out various artistic elements for students to note. She asked them to look at the color choices (mostly primary colors) used in “The Bedroom” and the emphasis on lines, squares and rectangles.

Because the replica was created with 3D printing technology, students can feel the the artist’s thickly applied paint and even individual brushstrokes

Students seemed to like the experience of feeling the texture best. Since the replica was scanned and then 3D printed, they could actually feel with their fingers van Gogh’s brush strokes, layers of paint and drips down the canvas.

“You could tell it was plastic, but it was still cool to feel the different textures,” Hunter Prins said.

“Yeah, and you could feel the lines where it might have been folded,” Grace Sweeney added.

While the seven elements of art — color, form, line, shape, space, texture and value — are stressed in art class and the van Gogh lesson, Coffman highlighted other academic elements as well, including history and geography.

One question she asked students was if they could guess whether the famous artist was from France or Holland.

“Think about the last name,” she hinted. Still, many of the students assumed he was French and were surprised when Coffman revealed van Gogh was Dutch.

“Oh hey, I’m Dutch, too,” Hunter said, followed by a chorus of “me toos.”

Coffman also stressed the importance of writing. “We know so much about van Gogh because he wrote so many letters to his brother, Theo,” Coffman told her class. “Without those, we might not know all of this (information about van Gogh).”

Teacher Lori Coffman points out some of the things students can explore in the replica painting, like lines, color and texture

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Meghan Gracy
Meghan Gracy
Meghan Gracy graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a degree in journalism, which she funded by working as a Young Fives teacher in Ann Arbor. After graduation, she worked for three years as a reporter at The Daily News in Greenville, Michigan. Her favorite part of the job was covering multiple school districts in Montcalm County. She said a hard farewell to the position in 2019 and transitioned to a career in marketing. She currently works full-time as a writer and marketing strategist at Calvin University in addition to contributing to School News Network.


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