Art Cluster Students Explore Op Art

By: Catie Anderson, curator of education on January 9th, 2019

The Wausau School District’s Art Cluster Program provides a multi-day art enrichment experience for fourth and fifth-grade students with a keen interest in the visual arts. The students begin the program with a visit to the Woodson Art Museum where volunteer docents offer a guided visit through the galleries and educators introduce students to a hands-on art project inspired by artwork on view. This year’s 160 Art Cluster students experienced Victor Vasarely: Op Art Master.

Exhibition galleries are filled with bright colors and complex, graphic patterns comprising familiar geometric shapes. Vasarely utilized circles, squares, rhomboids, and ellipses to devise a varied and optically engaging range of artwork, believing these shapes served as building blocks in a universal visual alphabet. Vasarely’s elemental visual vocabulary reflects the artist’s beliefs that art should be accessible to all. To capture the spirit of Vasarely’s egalitarian art philosophy and unlock the creative potential of geometric shapes, students laidout patterns of felt circles and squares on boards in the galleries. This simple, interactive exercise connects essential elements of composition and color theory to the artwork on view, inviting students to observe how a color’s proximity to other hues can alter our perception of its intensity.



The lively, interactive nature of Op Art presents opportunities to explore classic optical illusions, like the Ames Room, replicated as a model for docents to share with students, illustrating how our perceptions of space and scale can be altered.

With students’ time in the galleries limited to half an hour, the Art Cluster experience needed to be fun and high impact – think 3-D glasses – leaving students with a memorable introduction to the artwork of Victor Vasarely.




Hands-on art making in the Museum’s classroom included a flurry of activity as students used colorful cardstock and strips of paper to create striped patterns for their Op Art-inspired artworks. Students traced onto a sheet of striped paper stencils of animals and geometric shapes, which were then cut out and overlaid onto a second, making sure the shape stripes alternated with the background-color stripes. This project reflects Vasarely’s use of stripes in alternating colors to depict shapes without the use of contour lines, as seen in his serigraph Zébres.


Victor Vasarely, Zébres, 1965, serigraph, from the collection of Herakleidon Museum, Athens, Greece

We’re confident students left the Woodson Art Museum inspired for their continued Art Cluster art making. See the creative responses to Vasarely’s artworks at the Marathon County Public Library, Saturday, March 2 through Wednesday, March 20.


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