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Roger Tory Peterson’s Methods, Media and Models

Posted on Mar 7, 2019

This article by Jordan Patterson, appeared in the February 28th, 2019 edition of the Post-Journal.

Roger Tory Peterson passed away in 1996, but his catalog of paintings, photography and overall work with birds continued to impact Jefferson Middle School (Jamestown, NY) students Wednesday (February 27th). In two separate sessions, Lisa Corey, Jefferson art teacher, and her fifth- and sixth- grade students welcomed in representatives from the Roger Tory Peterson Institute to display past work from the founder organization. The RTPI program is titled “Roger Tory Peterson’s Methods, Media and Models.” “This is a great way to open up their exposure to Jamestown,” Corey said.

Jane Johnson, RTPI’s Director of Exhibits and Marketing interacts with students during their classroom presentation.

Jane Johnson, director of exhibitions and marketing, and Melanie Smith, communications coordinator, showcased several artifacts from Peterson’s catalog of work. Props on display included original Peterson artwork; his original 1934 field guide, first edition; art supplies that Peterson would have used; bird study skins; and camera equipment. Johnson and Smith told the Jefferson students about Peterson’s method of using “mixed-media” that utilized various painting styles to portray the best image. The duo also discussed Peterson’s influence on Rachel Carlson’s book, “Silent Spring.” The book detailed the pesticide known as DDT including its impact on the environment and birds.

Corey said bringing in the RTPI representatives benefited the students by showing them a local organization and a local individual who made an impact through painting and other art forms.“I thought it’d be nice for the kids to have a local artist to be inspired by and I’m hoping the kids get out of this presentation lesson is the observation skills that Roger (Tory Peterson) used to really study something he was passionate about and really go that deeper level to see what the different types of birds were with their different markings,” Corey said.

Melanie Smith, RTPI’s Communications Coordinator and Educator showcases original Peterson artwork for students.

Prior to bringing in Johnson and Smith, the two classes read a book about Peterson. Corey said until reading the story of the local artist, most of the students had probably never heard of him. Bringing in the institute could potentially pique the interest of students to visit the facility in Jamestown, she said. “Sometimes kids get a little more excited hearing it from another perspective,” she said of changing the normal routine in her classroom.

The presentation by the RTPI representatives, served as the beginning of a new project for the fifth- and sixth-grade art students. The project will focus on bird observations through painting. Corey said the students will use a “mixed-media” approach as Peterson once used.