Diocese of Bridgeport students use their photographic reflections to compete in a January exhibition at Fairfield University's Walsh Art Gallery


During this fall as part of an educational outreach program, several groups of students that attend schools from the Diocese of Bridgeport in grades 5 to 8, visited the world premiere exhibition, "The Creative Photograph in Archaeology - from the Traveling Photographers of the 19th Century to the Creative Photography of the 20th Century" at Fairfield University's Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery. The program was designed and organized by two teachers at St. Ann School in Black Rock who, inspired by the exhibition, saw an opportunity to tap into their students' skills of observation and creativity.

Students at Walsh Art Gallery

Grade 8: (L-R) David Klepacki, Ashli Ferguson, Kelly Heintzelman

Dawn Pilotti, a 1996 Fairfield University alumna and adjunct professor in Art History and Elizabeth James, both teachers at St. Ann School, conceived and designed the program. The two held workshops for diocese teachers in which they explained a "unit" they had devised using exclusive educational resources from the Center for Acropolis Studies in Athens. The unit was designed to teach the students about Ancient Greek culture by implementing their artistic, mathematical and historical skills in hands-on activities using replicas from the kit - a Greek temple and the Parthenon - as a basis for the projects.

The students were encouraged to follow a series of steps that would enable them to enter "The Acropolis Photography Competition." They were first asked to visit the exhibition and observe the photographs. After the initial visit, each student chose an historic building in the community that he or she wanted to photograph and finally, submitted one for the competition from the series of photographs taken. With the entries, students earn the opportunity to be a finalist and, as such, will participate in an exhibition on display at the Walsh Art Gallery from Jan. 4 to 11. An opening reception will take place at the gallery on Friday, Jan. 4 from 3:30-4:30 p.m.

Students at Walsh Art Gallery

Grade 5: (L-R) David Jarquera, Rodcheed Beaujour, Dominika Baginska, Andrew LaFluer

Katie Fredericks, an eighth grader at St. Ann, chose to photograph the historic Thomas Wheeler House in Black Rock, "I took pictures of the house from different angles, like the ones in the exhibition, and decided I liked the shot I took from across the street. I liked the fact that it showed the whole house and the trees all around it."

Another Black Rock resident, Caitlin Nevins, a seventh grader from St. Ann who sails in the harbor every summer, had an easy time choosing which of her photos to enter in the competition, "I wanted the picture to be of who I am, so I took the mouth of the Black Rock Harbor and Fayerweather Island Light. I noticed details, like the stones around the lighthouse."

The innovative teachers also devised a student information sheet, organized a pre-gallery visit questionnaire on "The Importance of a Photograph" and created a series of provocative questions that were designed to turn the young spectators into "gallery detectives." The gallery detectives were asked to use the historical evidence they found in the exhibition photographs to try to determine what had happened to the Parthenon.

Pilotti and James are delighted with the program's popularity, evidenced by the 100 or more photo submissions received for the competition. "The submissions are great. Now, we have to choose between 60 and 80 that will hang in the exhibition," said Pilotti recently. According to her, the aim of the program was to harness the students' focused observations, train their artistic eye and carry the participating students from ancient Greece to modern Fairfield County with a shutter's click. Pilotti said, "We are excited by what the students have produced and definitely feel the students who participated learned to look at architecture in a different way."

Pilotti has heard that the project has sparked interest from other universities around the country. Word of successful teaching models travels far and wide, quickly.

"The Creative Photograph in Archaeology" was organized by Socratis Mavrommatis, chief photographer of the Acropolis Restoration Service and the Benaki Museum in Athens, in collaboration with Dr. Katherine Schwab, associate professor of Art History in the Fairfield University Department of Visual and Performing Arts. The exhibition has moved on to its next venue in New York City. It will continue to tour the United States and Europe during 2008 ending the tour with a major exhibition and conference at the Benaki Museum. To view the exhibition photographs, please visit the website The Creative Photograph in Archaeology.

Admission to the Walsh Art Gallery is free. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from Noon to 4 p.m. The gallery is closed on Mondays. For further information, please call (203) 254-4000, ext. 2969.

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, jgrant@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 18, 2007

Vol. 40, No. 137