More than two decades ago, when Pinetree secondary school was about to open, School District 43 administrators asked Brian Gleckman to tour the building.
As the inaugural visual arts department head at Pinetree, Gleckman was invited by then-superintendent Laureen Doerksen to get a feel for his new space before he settled in.
A former art teacher at Port Moody secondary, Gleckman remembers he was taken by the amount of wall space in the new school, located next to Douglas College.
“My mind was racing,” he said.
There, he thought, was an opportunity to fill the walls with masterpieces that would not only educate the student population but would also offer a dose of daily inspiration.
Over the years, Gleckman and his senior drawing and painting students reproduced works of museum-quality art from trailblazers spanning the Renaissance to modern day.
They studied the artists’ backgrounds as well as the content, colours and textures of their chosen piece.
Sometimes, they worked alone; other times, in a group setting to paint sections on canvas, board or a ceiling panel that would be installed in a classroom.
Now, with Gleckman set to retire next month, he’s inviting students, staff, alumni, arts institutions and city officials to have a walk-through to showcase the 90 re-creations.
Tours for the Museum of Art night start at 7 p.m. Feb. 19.
During a visit with The Tri-City News last month, Gleckman talked about the 20-year masterpiece project that he hopes, one day, will become a cultural resource for the city.
“It’s so unique,” he said, “that we would like to open our doors up to the community.”
Recently, Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart and Coun. Steve Kim, the chair of the city’s cultural advisory committee, visited Pinetree to talk to Gleckman about how the school could accommodate guests. Already, it’s been seen by several international educators, he said.
Gleckman got the idea to widen the audience about 10 years ago when he was interviewed for CBC Radio’s weekend program North by Northwest.
He recalls the media experience being a kind of a-ha moment, and it drove him to expand the “museum,” which includes reproductions of works by Van Gogh, Picasso, Miró, Matisse and da Vinci.
The type of art and its placement were also critical to the project, he said; for example, a re-imagination of The Diplomats in The Hague photo by Erich Salomon is near the library.
Some pieces also include mixed media components while a couple — like Raphael’s The School of Athens — pop with 3D cut-outs (Gleckman used a saw to make the shapes).
Gleckman, who trained as a painter and has bachelor’s degrees in art history and international relations, plus master’s degrees and certifications in education and art, said some 100 students took part in the painting exercise, with many working on multiple pieces.
Their names are in a glossy booklet Gleckman produced last summer for the winter open house.
Many of his students have gone on to study at post-secondary art institutions around the world, becoming art teachers or are mixing their art lessons with politics or fashion.
Still, Gleckman said he believes nearly all who walked through Pinetree’s halls over the past 20 years have had the images imprinted on their minds and can easily identify the works in galleries. “It has heightened their senses about the art world.”