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Props for ‘Beauty and the Beast’ to be displayed at arts center

Monday, May 15, 2017

Published by El Dorado News Times

EL DORADO — For several months, Washington Middle School students, under the direction of Maria and Jorge Villegas, artists-in-education and Katie Harwell, WMS art instructor, have been creating props and backdrops for the school’s recent production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr.” which was performed recently at the El Dorado High School Fine Arts Auditorium.

And those art works will be on display in the Lobby Gallery of the South Arkansas Arts Center, 110 E. Fifth St., El Dorado, beginning Monday and props will remain on exhibit through May 22. An artist’s reception will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the arts center.

Maria and Jorge Villegas and Harwell “were the ones responsible for this long Artist-in-Education program,” which was funded in part by the Arkansas Arts Council, South Arkansas Arts Center, National Endowment for the Arts and the El Dorado Education Foundation, Maria Villegas said.

“Teachers and students created, designed, painted and papier-mache all the props, all the three-dimensional objects and also all the backdrops,” Maria Villegas said.

Based on the original Broadway production that ran for over 13 years and was nominated for nine Tony Awards, and the Academy Award-winning motion picture, “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr.” is an adaptation of the story of transformation and tolerance.

The classic story tells of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped under the spell of an enchantress. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity.

After a proposal from Harwell, directors of the El Dorado Education Foundation, approved funding for “A Fine Art Fairy Tale.” In her proposal, Harwell wrote that approximately 650 fifth and sixth grade students would be involved in the project, which included studio art, mini art, music production, mini music, drama and literacy.

“This project will provide art, music and drama departments with new ways to integrate literacy. Fine art classes will work together to discover and present the Disney musical, ‘Beauty and the Beast Jr.’ The music production classes will focus on performing the musical, while studio art classes will plan and design sets and costumes. Art and music students will spend class time discovering the original French fairy tale, by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Baumont. Study of this text will not only introduce and explain the school’s spring play to students, but it will also help them master important literacy skills,” Harwell wrote in the proposal.

“This was a great project,” she said. “It provided our art, music and drama departments with an exciting new way to integrate literacy. We worked together to discover and present the Disney musical, ‘Beauty and the Beast Jr.’ Our music production classes prepared for and performed the Disney musical while our studio art students designed and constructed all of the costumes for our play. Studio students also painted six backdrops for the play. These 18x24 paintings were projected onto the stage at the EHS auditorium. The projected backdrops were a beautiful addition to the play, enhancing the acting on stage,” Harwell said.

“Art and music students spent time comparing the original French Fairy Tale to the Disney version. The original Fairy Tale was hard to read, but it was interesting to discover the differences between the two versions. Maria Villegas and Jorge Villegas made designing and building all of the costumes for the play fun. We also worked with Mr. and Mrs. Villegas to design, draw and paint all of the backdrops for the play. Our students mastered many complex art skills like perspective drawing, color mixing, 3D sculpting, drawing to scale and set design,” she said.