Superintendent’s office doubles as art gallery - East Valley Tribune: News

Superintendent’s office doubles as art gallery

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Posted: Monday, January 18, 2010 3:13 pm | Updated: 3:57 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

As a way to showcase the artistic talents of district employees, art teachers and other artistic employees will now be given the chance to show their artwork in the upstairs superintendent’s reception area and superintendent’s office at the Gilbert Unified School District office.

The Gilbert Unified School District office has turned into a gallery of sorts.

Walk through the hallways and visitors can see student artwork displayed throughout the first floor.

As a way to showcase the artistic talents of district employees, art teachers and other artistic employees will now be given the chance to show their artwork in the upstairs superintendent’s reception area and superintendent’s office.

The walls are covered with close to 30 paintings and prints of colorful landscapes, cuddly animals and vivid portraits, featuring the work of Gail McFarland, an art and science teacher at Gilbert Junior High School.

McFarland’s work will be displayed until the end of the month. A Monday reception was held in the middle of her two-month show.

Visitors to the district office can stop in and see her work if they are already visiting the district office for another reason, and if the superintendent’s office is open, said district spokeswoman Dianne Bowers.

McFarland is the second artist featured in the Superintendent’s Artists in Residence Program. The idea was born from Bowers, who wrote a proposal to start the program, Superintendent Dave Allison said.

“We thought it would be an excellent idea to showcase our employees’ art,” Allison said. “They do some good work. This would be one way to recognize it, and it enhances the office.”

Allison pointed to McFarland’s painting of a woman in an elevator with a ghostly figure, entitled “Elevator Ride.” Allison said it was his favorite because it was interesting and he liked the colors.

“I’m not an art connoisseur, but I like the lines in this painting,” Allison said. “This is good stuff.”

Many of McFarland’s pieces feature custom pet portraits commissioned for the Paw Print Artists business she owns with her husband and artist, Jeff Danford, whose medium is oil paintings and ceramics.

In the business, Danford paints the more abstract animal portraits, while McFarland tends to paint the more realistic, photo-like portraits. Sometimes, the two collaborate, depending on what the client is looking for.

Although dogs are relaxing and “fun to do,” her favorite pieces are the ones that “make you stop and think,” said McFarland, 53, a four-year district employee from Chandler.

The “Elevator Ride” painting portrays a ghostly man in an elevator, riding along with a woman. He’s there, but he’s not really there. Usually there are no conversations with strangers on elevator rides because people are involved in their own thoughts, she said.

Her work can also be seen at SunDust Gallery in Mesa, which her husband helps run.

McFarland’s work is shaped by her childhood, where she was born in a military hospital in Frankfurt and lived in Germany for the first six years of her life. She remembers putting her fingers in the bullet holes in the walls, visiting castles and art museums, and exploring the beautiful countryside.

“I like to tell visual stories with paint,” McFarland wrote in her bio. “I am influenced by political and social issues. My goal is to shock, make people stop and think, and analyze their personal beliefs. I want my artwork to be a looking glass into today’s political and social issues.”

Sherry Hornby, a Gilbert district administrative assistant in educational services, said she loved McFarland’s paintings.

“It’s fabulous. So creative and colorful. I love how she pays particular attention to animals, and I love how she uses shapes,” said Hornby, who was enjoying the art Monday during the reception. “I think this is a great idea and great exposure. It gives us a chance to be inspired by their artwork.”

Danford, McFarland’s husband, agreed.

“As an artist, any exposure you can get is good exposure,” he said.

The next featured artists will be art teachers, Patricia Leonard, from Pioneer and Burk elementary schools, and Bonnie Hill-Dowdy, from Harris and Spectrum elementary schools.

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