Lisa Stolzer was destined to be an art teacher. Her brother is an art professor, her sister and brother-in-law are art professors, her mother paints, and her husband teaches art at a juvenile detention center. When long-time art teacher Carole Golcher retired last year, school head Michelle Morrison appointed Stolzer to take her place.
“I was a classroom teacher for 26 years and I’ve always integrated art into my teaching,” said Stolzer. “Art is such a wonderful way to express things and it comes naturally to young children.”
The Art classroom, known as the Imaginarium, is filled with plants and natural light. Similar to other Montessori classrooms, the child-centric space exudes a sense of calm and order but on a larger scale. Students create works of art against a backdrop of music, including classical, jazz, Motown, and The Beatles. The choice of music depends on what Ms. Stolzer thinks will help them focus and create on any given day.
“I want the children to feel excited to come down here and feel good in this environment,” said Stolzer. “It’s a big deal, especially for the young ones, to come down by themselves to the art room.”
Stolzer’s goal in taking over the program is to carry on Golcher’s legacy of giving the students a rich exposure to different types of art and artists. She also hopes to help the children feel good about the art they create. After many years as an elementary teacher listening to how how children feel about their art and how much comparison there is, she’s tuned into the importance of building confidence. She incorporates a lot of abstract work so the children don’t get hung up on something looking “realistic” in order to be “good.” She also avoids the “cutesy” art that can be more common in public school art classrooms. She, like her predecessor, believes in giving children quality art and helping children of all ages and abilities produce amazing work.
This year’s theme is “Art Across the Curriculum” and each month is focused on a different subject area. Earlier this year, in connection with science, the Primary students studied the work of Gustav Klimt and his Tree of Life. Each student then created a Tree of Life, incorporating painting, drawing, and collage. Meanwhile, the Middle School students learned about the geometry of Islamic art and created tile work.
As part of her dedication to high quality, Stolzer believes in exposing the children to all types of artists. In addition to the masters, she likes to introduce more offbeat and contemporary artists. For a lesson on art and math, students studied the art of Kristin Farr whose work is inspired by the Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs commonly found on barns and buildings. The students learned how shading and perspective created a 3-D effect on her brightly colored paintings and they enjoyed painting their own similar designs.
It’s also important to Stolzer to give children the opportunity to choose which pieces of art they’d like to hang up around the school. She wants them to feel good about what’s on display and doesn’t want the message to be that we create art to decorate our school. “We create art because I believe it’s a human need to create art,” said Stolzer. “There isn’t a civilization that exists that doesn’t create art in some way.”
“The children at Princeton Montessori School are so fortunate to be in an environment where creativity, passion, and art are an integral part of all of our programs,” continued Stolzer. “Several faculty and substitutes on staff are artists in their own right and add so much to the overall art experience for the children and the core day teachers create many wonderful artful works as well. I feel blessed to work in an art-appreciating culture!”