After two years of cancellations due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Pageant of the Arts at McGaugh Elementary returned to the stage for the 39th time last week.
The beloved tradition dates back decades at the Seal Beach school and features student-made replicas of world-famous paintings. The giant canvases are the beautiful backdrops during a student performance that educates as it entertains. It’s inspired by the Pageant of the Masters of Laguna Beach.
In 2020, McGaugh’s Pageant shut down just ten days before the first performance. “Our hearts were broken, especially for the students who had worked so hard to be prepared,” McGaugh teacher and Pageant program director Leslie Obert wrote in an email.
“The performers this year were first and second graders the last time they were able to see a performance of the Pageant,” Obert added.
During Pageant, fourth graders serve as narrators, taking on the roles of world-famous artists, including Vincent Van Gogh and Edward Hopper, to share their stories. Fifth graders perform choreographed dances in costumes inspired by the artwork.
“After missing the past two years, it was extremely important for us to educate the students again about the past history of ALL the artists and masterpieces that are included in the show,” Obert added. She said there are more than 30 student-made canvases that have been created over the years. Nine were included this year.
In addition, every TK-5 grade student has a chance to contribute to Pageant by helping to paint the featured artwork for the year during weekly Art Lab lessons.
This year’s featured artist was Loïs Mailou Jones (1905-1998). She influenced the arts as a painter, designer and educator. Her piece “Bazar Du Quai, Port Au Prince, Haiti” was the show finale.
“The support of the community in funding an art teacher who is dedicated to a yearlong study of one particular artist allows the art teacher to introduce all McGaugh students, TK-5, to various media and styles of the chosen artist,”Obert wrote. The Art Lab is paid for through fundraising by the volunteer-run Project SEEK and the Los Alamitos Education Foundation.
Around 450 people filled McGaugh’s auditorium each night last weekend to watch Pageant. A total of 82 students performed this year, spending a total of 21 hours rehearsing with teachers after school and during recess.
Parents Connor and Shayla Matt were thrilled to have their students participate.
“It was a wonderful experience for them as they learned about art and learned about life,” the Matts wrote in a letter to Obert.
“They learned about the artists that created the famous pieces that were featured in the program and were eager to share what they had learned when they came home from school. In addition, they learned some valuable life skills such as commitment, discipline, disappointment, perseverance and teamwork,” they said.
“Our reputation as the Arts Elementary School in the [Los Alamitos Unified School District] is truly deserved because of the integration of visual arts, theater arts, music, and movement that is found in a Pageant performance,” Obert wrote.
You can watch past Pageant performances on the Seal Beach Public Television station website at https://www.sbtv3.org/community-programs . This year’s show should be online this summer.