How it all began...
In 1977 Lois Cohn, Media Center Specialist, first came up with the idea for the Pageant after sharing an article with Weaver Principal, John Blaydes. The article showed a picture from an educator's magazine of
children sticking their heads through a backdrop of "Sunday Afternoon at La Grande Jatte." John Blaydes encouraged Lois Cohn and Shirley Johns to go forward with the project. Under the careful guidance of Shirley Johns, the Art Lab director, the students created a replica of the piece. Its first presentation was to a PTA audience.
The students stood still in front of the painting in costumes and character while classical music was playing. And that was it! The next year a new painting was added entitled,
"Country Schoolhouse" by Winslow Homer,with a square dance theme but still no movement. The following year the teachers moved to McGaugh Elementary School in Seal Beach, CA. Due to the move, the Pageant was delayed for a year.
The next piece, "Broadway Boogie Woogie" brought with it toe tapping music and choreography by Jean Parks Mongone. The Pageant became part of the school wide curriculum. The media center adapted a program called REACH where the students researched the yearly artists and had opportunities to study many art styles, cultures, and diversities. A program called SPLASH was adopted to teach 5th graders different aspects of choreography, stage directions, rehearsals, teamwork, stage presence, and the joy of performing before an audience.
The 4th graders had an opportunity to audition for a speaking part where they assumed the role of the artists to introduce each painting.
Matt Reid Cohn, original keyboard player in the rock group Berlin, became our in-house composer. He has composed numerous original pieces for the Pageant that compliment the paintings.
Every year ten paintings are presented as part of the Pageant, which includes dropping an old painting and introducing a new one. Mixed emotions follow the exit of a painting because children take such pride and ownership in each piece of artwork they brought to life. From Kindergarten on, the students at McGaugh anticipate performing in the Pageant. Many former students come back year after year to reminisce about their involvement in Pageant history.
The Pageant has been honored by the California State School Board Association,with the Golden Bell Award, and the Los Angeles Music Center Bravo Award. The Pageant is currently featured in the Orange County Imagination Celebration.