In this first year, our focus was to have the students create art works that were integrated with literacy components that were being taught in their language arts classes. The fourth graders explored the theme of color through combined poetry writing and illustration. As a reference, they read and discussed the color poems in the book Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill. The fifth grade class delved into self-portraiture as way of learning and identifying inferences. They also wrote acrostic poems and visualized the poem in a self-portrait by using symbols to display their own unique qualities, characteristics and actions. Finally, the sixth graders based their art work on two novels, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. They created art works using various media as a way of identifying and understanding the literary devices and symbolism they found in these two stories.
John T. Pirie Fine Arts & Academic Center is located at 650 E. 85th Street, Chicago. The school opened in 1962 in the community of Chatham, which is made up of primarily single-family homes of Black middle-income families and has had a stable population for more than 20 years.
The school’s goals are committed to integrating the fine arts and literacy throughout the core curriculum. Our mission is to create a safe and nurturing atmosphere that challenges ALL students to strive for excellence. We aim to produce an excitement and a desire for literacy, which cultivates intellectual, creative, & social skills, accomplished through the fine arts, professional development and parental support.
Magnet Cluster Lead Teacher
Monica Skylas has been the MCLT at John T. Pirie Fine Arts and Academic Center for the past seven years and the art teacher at the school for 25 years. In those years she has created numerous projects that showcase the students in the school and throughout the community. She teaches visual art and has taught ceramics in the after-school program and completed a mosaic mural on the wall of the cafeteria at Pirie. She believes that art is a creative outlet that all children have deep within them and need an avenue to express it.
Ellen Tritschler is a visual artist who works in both painting and drawing as well as ceramics. Her clay work consists of both functional and decorative ceramics pieces. She has been working as teaching artist in Chicago over the past 17 years at various Chicago Public Schools through Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education. She holds a B.A. in fine art from DePaul University, a B.F.A. in ceramics from The School of the Art Institute (SAIC) and a Master’s of Art in Art Education from SAIC. She has also been a faculty member of the International Academy of Design and Technology teaching introduction design courses.