Maxime Couture, Apolline Coatrieux and Emelie Tomczak stand in front of some of the artwork they created as part of the wildly popular Painting Canada exhibit at McMichael Canadian Art collection in Kleinburg until Jan. 6.

Maxime Couture, Apolline Coatrieux and Emelie Tomczak stand in front of some of the artwork they created as part of the wildly popular Painting Canada exhibit at McMichael Canadian Art collection in Kleinburg until Jan. 6.

A group of local students have been given a chance to experience something many professional artists can only dream about.

Their artwork is on display at the prestigious McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg.

“This is a wonderful opportunity,” said Elaine Hoffman, McMichael gallery’s manager of education. “I’m sure that this will stay with these kids their whole lives. This will be a memory they’ll be able to share with their kids.”

The exhibit, dubbed Discovering the Passion of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, features paintings by 60 students in grades 3 through 6 at Kleinburg’s École Élémentaire La Fontaine.

The students’ pieces are reproductions of works from the gallery’s wildly popular exhibit, Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven.

That exhibition, which runs until Jan. 6, boasts 130 works by Mr. Thomson, Lawren Harris, Franklin Carmichael, A.Y. Jackson, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald and Frederick Varley.

The student exhibit opened last weekend with a special reception for the students’ family members, and also runs until Jan. 6.

The students visited the gallery to check out Painting Canada and create sketches of the pieces they found most inspiring. Then, back at school, they transformed those rough pieces into the colourful paintings now adorning the walls in the Founder’s Lounge.

The pieces are done in three different mediums: watercolour, acrylic and gouache.

The students were also challenged to write a sort of artist’s statement to accompany their paintings explaining what they like best about the piece they chose to reproduce and their own choice of colours.

Grade 4 students Emilie Tomczak and Maxime Couture were inspired by Mr. Harris’s chill-inducing paintings from his time in the Arctic.

“I like Lawren Harris’s paintings because his work has a light side and a dark side,” Emilie, 9, said.

Maxime chose Lake and Mountain for his subject.

“I thought it was easy to do and I like blue,” the soft-spoken nine year old said.

Fellow Grade 4 student Apolline Coatrieux found her muse in Mr. Lismer’s Evening Silhouette.

That painting shows a lonesome pine tree, contorted by years of exposure to the high winds off Georgian Bay, growing out of a rocky outcrop and set against a multi-hued sky.

“I like the colours that he chose,” she said. “It made me feel calm because there’s no wind and happy because of the colours.”

Needless to say, they’re very excited to have their artwork on display for all to see.

“It’s going to be amazing,” Emilie said.

To make the exhibit even more authentic, Ms Hoffman created panels, in French and English, providing background about the works on display.

And, as an added bonus, the exhibit includes letters written by Mr. Thomson, during his time spent painting in Algonquin Park, and poems written by Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Harris, which the students discussed as part of the project.   

“Last year, we had an art gallery at the school and I remember many students said, ‘I can’t do art. I’m not really that good at it’. But once they did the gallery at the school, they said, ‘I made it, I’m an artist’,” La Fontaine art teacher Marquise Lamarche recalled.

“Now, being here, that just made them really be true artists and really be happy about their work. And taking art really seriously.”