News

December 3, 2009

Inspiring Young Artists

Painter and sculptor Eugene Avergon ’62 outlines engaging art projects for students

By David Learn ’92

As an artist, Eugene B. Avergon ’62 enjoys both painting and sculpture, and as a writer, he loves to instill this same appreciation within children.

That passion for art education led him and his wife, Diana, to write three articles for Heroes of Giftedness: An Inspirational Guide for Gifted Students and their Teachers, a volume published this year by Gifted Education Press. The articles, a page-and-a-half each, detail the biographies of artists who can serve as role models for the students, including Martin Puryear, an African American sculptor in Chicago; Debra Butterfield, another contemporary sculptor, known for her sculptures of horses, including the full-scale “Master of Horse”; and pop artist Wayne Thiebaud.

Art education has long been a passion for Avergon. In addition to his writing experience, which includes the Art by Choice series of books that he and his wife have written, available through E-Nasco.com, Avergon has taught at Fieldstone School in Riverdale, N.Y., and for 23 years at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill., where he created the school’s Advanced Placement-level art curriculum.

“I tend to be both right and left brain, so I’m somewhat intellectual but I’m also artistically creative,” he says.

His Art By Choice books are written for substitute teachers or other instructors who lack an art specialty. As students complete the projects in the books, they must make choices that will give them a greater sense of ownership over the project, rather than simply producing the same essential project as everybody else.

“A lot of research is available because we use really fine art rather than some sort of abstract idea of what art should be,” says Avergon. “They choose interesting subjects, and they choose interesting colors, and they choose the media. You could use Pointillism with black and gray markers. You could use pointillism with soft pencils. You’re using much more the will of the student, and you’re working off the emotion of the child.”

“Each lesson gives you access to a different subject matter, whether it’s still life or the nature of waves falling on the beach from the ocean,” he says. “It gives you a starting point, a point of departure. It gives you a focus, and then it gives you a technique. There are specific techniques discussed, but the choices are not just the media, it’s how to use them, what colors you put on first, whether you work from dark to light. It’s getting people to the point where they’re involved.”

It was the arts program at Lafayette that first ignited Avergon’s enthusiasm for the visual arts. At the time, the College lacked a studio art program, but it did have an art history program under the direction of Johannes Gaertner. When he went on sabbatical, the College hired Clarence Carter, a retired artist from New York, to take the helm.

“I had really good teachers up at Lafayette,” says Avergon. ““He (Carter) was a painter of magic realism. He came to Lafayette and he started the first studio program, and that’s how I took a liking to art, doing drawings.”

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