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Looking at art from the outside

Published Dec. 2, 2006

There's something to be said for the outdoor classroom, temporary as it may be.

It can be an especially good place for the young artist, who can benefit from whiling the school day away by sitting out on a grassy lawn, listening to some favorite tunes and drawing things of old.

The old historic Dade City courthouse on Meridian Avenue provides the perfect outdoor classroom to get those creative juices flowing, said Lesli Platt, an art teacher at Centennial Middle School.

"It's a beautiful building," Platt said. "There's a big lawn area to work in. Its location is convenient to the school, so getting there is not a problem. And there's bathrooms."

For the second year, Platt brought 40 art students to the courthouse to draw the historic building or, if they'd rather, the storefronts and buildings in the surrounding area.

"I can only take 40 - that's all the drawing boards I have, and that's all the energy I have," said Platt, who selects students based on their ability to "handle it and do well."

And their ability to take what they've been learning in class - one-point perspective drawing - and apply it in another arena.

"There's a mixture of kids with various degrees of ability," said Platt, adding that she doesn't necessarily pick the best artists for this kind of venture. "I selected students who enjoy working and don't mind taking their time. They have to have a certain amount of maturity."

When the drawings or paintings are finished - should be sometime this week - Platt and her students will ready them to be displayed at the school in January. They will also be a part of the Jazz and Art Spring Festival held in March in downtown Dade City.

That's where Phil Williams picked up a painting and matching note cards done by Centennial Middle student Johnna Rogers that feature his popular business, Williams Fashion Center and Lunch on Limoges.

The folks there were so happy to see the young artists that they sent over some of their famous mixed fruit muffins for a morning snack.

"I want to buy another one," Williams said of the painting, adding that the note cards that he and his partner, Skip Mize, use as thank you notes are in short supply.

"We just absolutely loved them," he said. "I love that (the students) come out. I just love the fact that they come out and do it on site."