Creativity in Delivery OR

“Be a Patron of ART’s!"

By John Lentine, Locust Grove Primary School, Virginia

Posted on November 13, 2021

“Order up!” the chef exclaimed, but this is no ordinary chef! This is Mr. ART, of ART’s Diner, the unique art program at Locust Grove Primary School in Locust Grove, Virginia. ART’s Diner! Where every meal’s a masterpiece! Be a “Patron of ART’s!”

There are many ways to make teaching meaningful art lessons fun!

I’m John Lentine, aka Mr. ART. After teaching in Alaska for 27 years on a team of 5 art specialists covering 22 elementary schools, I finally got my own school in 2007 after I moved to Virginia. LGPS was the perfect school to actualize the ART’s Diner concept I had developed in Alaska, but could not operate because I taught at so many schools. ART’s Diner has cooked up masterpieces ever since.

Top Left: ART's Diner all set up and ready for class. Bottom Left: Entrance to ART's Diner. Right: Inside of ART's very colorful diner!

In this cooperative learning model, everyone has a special part. As Head Chef, I am the teacher and facilitator over my “staff.” There are designated hosts and hostesses, busboys and busgirls, waiters and waitresses and health inspectors, each with specific jobs at their respective tables. For example, the health inspectors are in charge of clean-up! It’s fun!

Top Left: John serving up another lesson in ART's Diner. Bottom Left: Former Superintendent Bob Grimesy pops in and gives a wave. John painted the school mascot cardinal above the door to immortalize Bob (notice the tie), who was always a "SOUPer" support! He would even do lessons along with the children! Right: Students with their Me-Moji Pizzas in ART's Diner...with an emoji about the artist on every slice! It's a great way to get to know students!

  • We do not use actual food, but the lessons have food NAMES such as Felt Tip MARKER-oni, Van Gogh’s Snail, Worm and Lady Bug Stew (It explores painting strokes of Vincent), ME-moji Pizza, Fish de Resistance (an underwater watercolor and crayon resist piece), LINE-gweeni and more! Our “menu” is our portfolio. I dress up everyday as a chef with a hat that has art materials on it. My checkered pants have become my recognizable trademark.

  • Sure, it adds an extra layer to my teaching, but it’s functional and fun. I simply say, “Busboys and girls, pass out the supplies.” “Waiters and “Waitresses, pass out the works in progress.” “Hosts and Hostesses, who’s absent from your tables?” To top it off, when I do ring that bell and say, “Order up,” the students answer back, “Order, Sir!” as it is a call to listen. At the same time, all the students are “patrons of ART’s,” learning as they “work.”

Top: Students love the creativity of making whipped cream lines at ART's Diner. Bottom Left: John Lentine's Art History 101 video, available at is an engaging resource for teaching art history. Bottom Right: "ART's a la carte" during art on a cart pandemic teaching.

Music is also key in my teaching, along with magic and humor.

We begin each class with the children echoing back these words to the tune of “Frere Jacques:”

I’m an artist.

I paint and draw.

And I like to play with clay.

I have fun everyday.

We change the words on the go to make other points, too.

I do magic tricks that teach art elements and interject humor. Some of you know I wrote a song about the history of art and recently made a video of it. I sent it to Dr. Trina Harlow, founder of OATK12 as I had added the group as a part of art’s history. Trina used it in last summer’s OATK12 Camp Conference. (Thanks, Trina!) Find it at and enjoy! It’s good for any age.

There is so much more to say, but for now and in ART's Diner terms, creativity in delivery is that cherry on top of our art teaching sundae, and it’s delicious!

Above: John presenting on ART's Diner at NAEA New Orleans. Right: Anyone who knows John knows that his pups are special to him. This is Beaux. He helps John with virtual lessons!

John Lentine is in his 42nd year of teaching and has been recognized with many awards over the years, including the NAEA Pacific Region Elementary Art Teacher of the Year in 1991 when he taught in Alaska. He may be reached at and welcomes all correspondence.

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