In the first four decades of its existence, the Olympic Games awarded medals for painting, sculpture, architecture, literature and music inspired by athletic experiences. A total of 151 medals were awarded from 1912 to 1952 for artwork, according to an article in the Smithsonian.
But officials eliminated the artistic element of the sports competition in 1954.
“The juried art competitions were abandoned in 1954 because artists were considered to be professionals, while Olympic athletes were required to be amateurs,” New Suffolk art teacher Che Sabalja said.
Third through sixth grade students at the New Suffolk Common School are mirroring these artistic predecessors by competing in the Arts Olympiad — a program sponsored by the International Child Art Foundation in Washington, D.C. The nonprofit aims to enhance student academic performance by nurturing creativity and empathy.
Students created a composition which incorporated color theory and the principles of art based on their favorite sport. Ms. Sabalja said all students worked from an artist mannequin and iPad images to develop their sports figures in action. They sketched their ideas first, then applied color based on color theory, a set of principles used for working with color in art.
“It’s important for students to see the interconnectedness between health, art and sport,” Ms. Sabalja said.
The teacher said the lesson plan created by ICAF embraces the “artist-athlete” concept, which connects creativity and good health by addressing the rising obesity crisis in the country.
“The artist-athlete ideal helps to break down stereotypes and encourage empathy for each other. It can foster a stronger, more creative and healthy school community,” she said.
Since only one piece from every school can be submitted to the final competition in Washington, D.C., New Suffolk students critiqued each other’s completed projects and voted on the best art piece. Projects were critiqued based on composition, originality, theme and clarity.
In late December 2018, students selected a piece from sixth grader Henry Langmack, who illustrated two characters playing tennis. The black and white piece contains geometric shapes and will be submitted to the competition.
If Henry is selected, he will participate in the World Children’s Festival, an informal art Olympiad, which occurs every four years that brings in student-winners from across the globe. It will be held July 2020 during the official XXXII Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Photo caption: Students at the New Suffolk Common School demonstrated the ‘artist-athelete’ concept by illustrating images of their favorite sport during class earlier this month. (Courtesy photo)