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Through the end of July, the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum will proudly host their first, but not last, art show. Local students have created the artwork on display and their collection represents one of the larger social purposes of art — art therapy. The majority of the paintings are a copy of one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most widely-recognized painting — the Mona Lisa. Another aspect of the show asks its viewers to interact with the exhibit — the viewer can select a piece of photocopied artwork and color it in. The viewer’s artwork can then be displayed on an easel alongside of the paintings in the Museum.

Colleen Montgomery, curator of the show and an associate at the Museum, brought “The Mona Show” to the Museum last week and so far, it’s been well-received. Smile Politely interviewed Montgomery about the exhibit and its success. Click the jump to read her answers.


What is the name of the collection of artwork?: “The Mona Show Plus Other Masterpieces”

What is the medium?: Water-based paint on muslin.

Who worked on these pieces?: Students who attend Gerber School at Cunningham Children’s Home. They range in age from 9-18 years old. Writer’s Note: Rob DeLong at the Framer’s Market in Champaign matted and framed all of the Mona Lisas.

When were they made?: The interpretations of the masterpieces were made over the course of a Forgery Project, between January and March of this year. The most recent additions, the Mandelas, were made between April and June.

Why did you choose to replicate the Mona Lisa?: The students were allowed to choose whichever piece they wanted out of a selection of about 20 works of art. It just so happened that a bunch of them chose the Mona Lisa. Maybe it’s her mysterious smile.

What do you think children get out of painting?: I think it’s a fun and easy activity for them to do without having to think too hard or follow specific rules. Kathryn Fitzgerald, the art therapy teacher at Gerber school, has created a warm environment in the art room which allows the children to feel safe to express themselves freely without fear of rejection or denial.

How is art therapeutic?: Art is therapeutic because it gives the children an outlet for their emotions without having to use words or answer questions. They are able to express themselves freely without limitations or boundaries. It also opens the door for collaboration with other students and staff through a venue that allows the formation of positive relationships and bonds through art. Plus, by having their art displayed on walls throughout the community, it allows them the opportunity to get out and not only see their pieces of work in an establishment, but it also gives them the chance to talk with members of the community about their art. This show has provided enrichment in their lives and has allowed them to interact with and be a part of the community in which they live.

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Where would you like to see these pieces of work hang next?: Anywhere in the Champaign-Urbana area! It started at Caffé Paradiso in Urbana from April to May, and now it’s at the Orpheum until the end of July. I would like for the “Mona Show” to visit as many walls around town as possible.

After July, the Mona Show is looking for a new home. If your business in C-U would like to host the “Mona Show” next, please contact Colleen Montgomery for more information.

Photos by Justine Bursoni