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Two classes, two continents, one artist

Students in Knoxville and Paris are participating in a two-year immersive education program based on the life of an artist who was born in Knoxville who moved to Paris.

Students in two cities on two different continents are linked through one artist. That one fact is facilitating a two-year long education program.

The students are not only learning a lot but are also building relationships.

Tennessee students at Nature's Way Montessori School talk to students in France through video conferencing with the help of Mary Campbell, who acts as their translator.

The two classes are connected by Beauford Delaney. The artist was born in Knoxville, went to Austin High School, and eventually ended up in Paris.

"He's an impressionist and he uses a lot of bright colors, green, yellow," fifth-grade student Mia Ghenov said.

Nature's Way Art Guide Dawn Kunkel said, "He was a very prolific artist. He had done portraits, landscapes, abstract works, so there are just so many lessons to choose from."

The students drew pictures of the artist. His life provides a framework to learn about not only art but also history, the Civil Rights movement and different cultures.

"Also there was even a STEM component with the program," Dawn said.

She said the once-a-month video meetings started last January with the debut of the two-year program called Classes Duo.

The two classes on different continents got to know each other and then they got to meet each other last month in Paris.

"It was very exciting to across the sea and see them because we've been communicating and painting with them and showing them. It was very interesting to see them," Mia said.

She and the rest of the class saw the Mono Lisa at the Louvre and sketched outdoors and did an art project with the kids at Jean Zay Public School.

We did a portrait of one another where they honored basically Beauford in producing a portrait. We also got to have a special viewing at a gallery of Beauford Delaney's works," Dawn said.

They were immersed in the culture of the city where Beauford Delaney spent his last years.

"It was beautiful and I loved the interesting foods and all of the art and museums and walking everywhere," Mia said.

Classes Duo helps the children increase their knowledge, build relationships, and expand their view of the world.

Mia said, "I can be more open about talking to other people in different languages and trying new types of painting."

Next, they hope their French friends will travel to Tennessee.

The Knoxville Museum of Art has the largest public collection of Beauford Delaney's art.