An exhibition of the work of Panther Valley students, who participated in the spring semester's Artist-in-Residence Project, is currently showing at the Allentown Art Museum in conjunction with the exhibit, "Victor Stabin-Daedal Doodle: An Extraordinary Journey through the Alphabet."

The Allentown Art Museum had, as part of an Arts In Education Partnership of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, funded artist Victor Stabin of Jim Thorpe to host a series of workshops for the Panther Valley School District. He ran a first series in 2011, and returned in 2012 for an expanded program co-funded by the Panther Valley School District.

The 2012 program funded by Allentown Art Museum arts and education manager Kathy Odorizzi, and organized by Panther Valley High School art teacher Kimberlee Burkett, drew 70 students to a 10-session workshop where elementary, middle and senior high school students teamed collaboratively under the guidance of a nationally recognized artist-in-residence, Stabin, to create, design and publish a graphic alphabet book.

The workshop was based on Daedal Doodle, both the name of Stabin's own graphic alphabet book that has been selling in his own studio and offered to art museums, and also an educational approach that marries the fine arts of writing and drawing into a creative whole, published as an illustrated book.

While reading to his daughter, Stabin turned to the dictionary for words of inspiration.

"The dictionary is the Universe alphabetized," he said. "As I put this together I realized I was coming up with some unique stuff using a simple process that could be brought into a classroom situation."

At the workshop, Stabin had students looking up words in the dictionary that were unfamiliar, had them put together a string of words beginning with the same letter, asked them to create a drawing that illustrated the meaning of the alliterative words, write a short story describing the scene depicted in their illustration, and create a cartography font of the selected letter. When all 26 letters, words, illustrations, stories and fonts were collected, Burkett assembled them and publish them as a book, Daedal Doodle 2.0.

"This is such a fantastic compilation of the class' work" Stabin said. "I've never seen anything like it in an art school. It shows what the kids can do. I feel like I've opened up the doorway to these kid's imaginations. If they can get inspired to do stuff like this in the future by understanding how powerful words are, and by dipping into the dictionary for inspiration, because it's something they can do it for the rest of their lives."

On Saturday, June 16, 60 people representing Panther Valley students and their family gathered for a ceremony at the Art two Ways Gallery at the Allentown Art Museum. The book, Daedal Doodle 2.0, was unveiled and the students were able to see their work on display at the museum.

"We are here today to celebrate the accomplishments of the Panther Valley students," Kathy Odorizzi began. "The high quality and dedication to this work is apparent. You should all be proud."

Kimberlee Burkett explained how the elementary, middle and high school units of the Panther Valley School District worked together, scheduled the students, organize transportation, and made available teaches to make the project possible.

"We finalized it with this book," she said. "I think this is a really cool thing for the kids to have."

She said there are many standards that are required to be taught to students at all levels.

"This project fulfills what we are supposed to be doing with students in the high school, the middle school, and the elementary school," she said. "We're supposed to be collaborating-working together with other people, and this was evident."

"This was one of the best projects I've ever had," said Steve Hajcak, the first of several students that addressed the get-together, and who read his team's story and spoke about the process of creating an illustration based on the letter 'I'. "I loved drawing since I was a little kid, since I could pick up a pencil."

"It's a gateway situation where kids get to use their imagination in a new way," Stabin said. "Words are gate openers.

"What's really fantastic is how words are building blocks for creating things in new and different ways. I'm very proud of the kids. I think these cartoons are super sophisticated and go beyond what I think anyone would've expected."

The exhibition "Victor Stabin-Daedal Doodle: An Extraordinary Journey through the Alphabet", and the works of the Panther Valley students, Daedal Doodle 2.0, are on display at the Art Ways Gallery at the Allentown Art Museum, 31 North 5th Street in Allentown through Sept. 9.

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