Tonawanda News

The City

April 26, 2014

Inspiring students to get creative

Tonawanda News — Martine Lepore sold her first work of art when she was in high school, where she used to do pencil drawings of her fellow students and sell them for $5 a piece. 

Since then she says she has created over a thousand pieces, mostly using oil paints but also in marble, ceramics and other media. In 2009, Jennifer Leone, an art teacher at Fletcher Elementary School in the City of Tonawanda, was at Lepore’s studio at Artisanworks in Rochester. Her collection “Human Safari” caught Leone’s interest.

“I liked that it was fresh, something different,” Leone said. “I liked her technique of pairing humans with animals with a lot of dripping, the loose painting. It inspired me to come up with a unit lesson for my classes, if you were an animal, which animal would you be?”

Leone noticed that when many of her students think of art they think of classical artists, from the past. She says she strives to teach children that contemporary artists are alive and well and still making art today. When one student asked if they could meet an artist, Leone got another idea. 

“I was asked to come in by Ms. Leone and give the students a presentation,” Lepore said. “(Doing something like) this encourages kids not to be stifled. If there’s a desire inside it can’t be stopped.”

Lepore dropped by Fletcher Elementary a bit before 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon. One student in each of Leone’s 13 art classes was selected to ask a question of Lepore about her life and her long career, which began at age five when she says she first realized that she was happiest when she was making art. 

Students asked all kinds of questions ranging from what her favorite foods are and which artists are her favorites. Other students wanted to know what happens when you make a mistake or don’t like the art you made. So she told them a story of a colleague who rescued a photo she had thrown away, put it in a frame and sold it. 

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