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Superheroes Power Kids’ Imaginations

Stifel Center brings art exhibit to classroom

September 29, 2012
By SARAH HARMON - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Surrounded by drawings and figurines of Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Joker and many other favorite comic book characters, the students of Ritchie Elementary designed their own superheroes to sculpt out of clay as part of a new traveling program from the Stifel Fine Arts Center.

"Heroes & Villains: Comics As Art" was a successful art exhibit at the Stifel Fine Arts Center in 2009 that showcased the multiple stages of creating a comic book. The exhibition was so popular with school groups that the Stifel staff reconfigured the exhibit into a traveling program. Through a grant from Target, Ritchie Elementary is playing host to the traveling exhibit free of charge for eight weeks.

Guest curator Brad Johnson joined the fifth-grade art class this week to give students an introduction to the exhibit and talk about the history and methods of creating comic book art.

Article Photos

Photo by Sarah Harmon
Guest curator of “Heroes & Villains” Brad Johnson explains how comic book art is made to Ritchie Elementary School’s fifth-grade art class. Pictured from left are Olivia Swords, Sierra Simeth and Dylan Danehart.

"The whole exhibit is focused on the artists that draw comics because for years, they weren't considered artists. But with the modern-day superhero movies and things that are tied around comic books, these guys are finally getting the recognition that they deserve," Johnson said. "It's now part of the Stifel Center's permanent exhibit and any school that's interested in it, we can bring it to them now and do an art program around it to educate the kids."

After learning some background of comic book art and getting a good look at the exhibit, the students participated in Sculpt-A-Hero, a project where they design and create their own superhero. In their next class, they will sculpt their original superhero out of clay.

The exhibit includes work by Gene Colan, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby - three creators of characters like Spider-Man and Iron Man. According to Johnson, all the pieces in the traveling exhibit are originals works.

"This is our first outreach, so I'm pretty excited about it," Johnson said. "It's all about bringing the art and the hands-on experience to the kids."

Rick Morgan, director of the Stifel Fine Arts Center, said "Heroes & Villains" seemed to "instantly engage students in a way that no exhibit has done in the past."

"You could literally see children's eyes widen when they entered the gallery," he noted. "We were able to give kids behind-the-scenes access to some of their favorite characters and stories while educating them about the art and the process."

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