A masterpiece in minutes? Stivers team can do

Live paintings are done as a performance.

This past Oct. 17 a 23-foot-by-18-foot rendition of Picasso’s “Girl Before a Mirror” materialized onstage at the Victoria Theatre in just under 12 minutes. On Dec. 5, it was a 17-by-17 replica of the Edgar Degas painting “Blue Dancers” within nine minutes at the Masonic Center.

These live painting performances with musical accompaniment were done by 19 Stivers School for the Arts students, with six students holding the gigantic, large-scale canvases. The first frenetic performance was during the opening of the TEDx gathering Dayton. The second was Stivers Celebrates, the Dayton school’s annual winter showcase.

This is the seventh year Stivers AP (advanced placement) art studio students created a masterwork to music for the showcase. Every 1.5 to 2 minutes, the canvas is raised 2 feet. Students dip their brushes into approximately 86 quarts of various paint colors. The painting is to be completed when the music by Stivers’ musicians stops.

“They are painting furiously to meet the deadline, but at the same time they are focused on presenting the very best rendition of the painting as possible,” said Liz Whipps, director of art magnet programs. “The energy that’s released during that time is so captivating and so engaging, it’s as if the audience is helping the painters create this homage to these master painters.”

Stivers visual arts director Julie Anderson said that the art students look forward to being selected for this honor from the time they are in middle school. Priority is given to graduating seniors, accomplished juniors and the occasional sophomore. The following seniors participated in painting the main figures on the Degas canvas: Sophia Davidson, Byron Berry, Whitney Fairchild, Kenia Lander and Zenon Ocegueda.

“The excitement and enthusiasm, along with a little nervousness, grows as we continue preparations and rehearsals and draw nearer to the evening of the performance,” said Anderson. “Yes, there is a lot of pressure, and once we are on stage it is all happening live, so there is no time for mistakes. Everyone there supports and encourages one another.”

The Stivers music program is also involved with the success of the performance. For TEDx, music was performed by the Stivers Jazz Orchestra. The Stivers Philharmonic Orchestra accompanied the painters with Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Toy Flutes, The Arabian Dance and Waltz of the Flowers in front of a sold-out house during Stivers Celebrates.

“We performed ballet music during the showcase, which was appropriate. It just really highlighted our beautiful string and French horn section,” said orchestra magnet director Lois Ramey. “The feature for the flutes was a tough piece, with a lot of extended arpeggios and tricky fingering patterns.”

The students’ reproduction of the Degas painting can be seen at Coco’s Bistro in Dayton, where it be throughout February when Stivers School for the Arts holds weekly Sunday brunches. Each Sunday a different Stivers musical group performs. The brunches at the restaurant raise funds for the school.

For more information about the brunch series, call 937-228-COCO (2626) or go online to www.stivers.org.

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Contact this contributing writer at PamDillon@woh.rr.com.