PHOTOS: Visiting Artist Uses Painting for Immersive Spanish Lesson

Nicaraguan artist Marlon Moreno gave Hopkins High School students a Spanish-language art class Monday.

The students held brushes in their hands Monday afternoon. Splotches of primary color paints spilled across paper plates. Sophomores, juniors and seniors swabbed the paint across white paper. By all appearances, it was an everyday art class at Hopkins High School.

But this wasn’t an art class; it was Stephanie Owen-Lyons’ Spanish III class. Marlon Moreno—an artist from León, Nicaragua—was teaching the students how to paint traditional Nicaraguan art through a lesson delivered entirely in Spanish.

“With this whole experience, it connects the words to the visual and the tactile,” Owen-Lyons said.

Moreno and Owen-Lyons have known each other for about 18 years. The Hopkins Spanish teacher is part of Project Minnesota León, a nonprofit that fosters cultural exchange between the two places. The organization provided funding to the school where Moreno learned to paint.

Moreno is in Minnesota to speak at a Saturday Project Minnesota León fundraiser about his development as an artist and his work founding Taller Artistico Xuchialt, a Nicaraguan art organization.

While Moreno is here, he and another Nicaraguan artist stopped by Hopkins High School to talk with students. In Owen-Lyons class, Moreno described the characteristics of Nicaraguan primitivism and instructed them on how to create their own painting in that style.

Owen-Lyons said the Spanish-language instruction meshes well with Hopkins High School’s emphasis on immersion-style language instruction.

Senior Carly Coats said she understood about three-quarters of Moreno’s talk—but added that that’s OK. The lesson was a real-world lesson applicable to similar encounters she might have outside the classroom.

“It’s kind of interesting to see a different perspective without using the language to figure it out,” she said. “It’s more of a visual learning experience.”


Would you like to attend the Project Minnesota León fundraiser?

When: 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: St. Richard’s Catholic Church (7540 Penn Ave. S., Richfield)


  • Dinner, mojitos, wine, beer
  • Live music by Cuban pianist Angel Perez Delgado
  • Silent auction
  • Nicaraguan art lesson
  • Keynote speech by Marlon Moreno


  • $25 per ticket
  • $60 per family
  • $10 per student
  • $180 table (preferred seating with bottle of wine)

To purchase: Click here or call 612.600.0795 to reserve a ticket to be paid for at the door.


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James Warden October 24, 2012 at 01:56 AM
It was quite a treat to sit in on the class. I particularly enjoyed learning about Nicaraguan primitivism from a practicing artist — specifically the characteristics that set it apart: lush vegetation, little concern for the accuracy of the human form and not leaving any space. Great presentation!
Ryan Dahnke October 25, 2012 at 07:16 PM
That Carly's pretty awesome! I mean look at the focus and concentration on her face! magnificent.
morgan October 25, 2012 at 07:17 PM
good job carly!!!! we are so proud ~ryan (on morgans account)
Ryan Dahnke October 25, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Its a true honor to be able to sit by Carly in Spanish. Just the other day I got her autograph! It's framed and hanging in my living room.
Ryan Dahnke October 25, 2012 at 07:20 PM
That comment on Morgans account was not by me. It was by morgan.


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