Brushing up on art
August 28, 2008 · Updated 10:49 AM
MARYSVILLE Students at a south-end elementary school are getting a brush-up on art, thanks to a state grant that brings working artists into the classroom.
The artist-in-residence program at Sunnyside Elementary School gives children a hands-on experience with creativity and broadens their horizons, too. The $4,000 grant will bring two artists to the school this year and is aimed at priming the pump before a statewide arts mandate comes into effect in 2008. Fifth-graders will have to demonstrate proficiency on an arts performance assessment starting that year.
Earlier this month Beverly Harding Buehler was working with successive classes of kindergartners, first-, and second-graders, moving them beyond the typical stick people and houses to learn and appreciate other aspects of drawing and painting. Her focus that day was to get the kids interested in textures, using the work of Eric Carle as a hook. She flipped through a book of Carles, showing how he uses patches of mottled and wavy color to represent different parts of an animal or building.
This is the way something feels, Buehler explained to the knee-high set as she displayed Carles work. As you can imagine, a drawing of a porcupine had lots of textures represented, spikey, pokey, etc. What Eric Carle does is he makes pictures that look like they have many different textures.
With that she set the first-graders in teacher Danette Calhouns class to work painting with an unusual tool box composed of scrapers, combs and octopuses made of sponge strips. She showed them how to drag a tool across a patch of fresh paint to create ridges, furrows and other types of three-dimensional relief instead of a flat surface. Then the kids were put to the task of creating textures of their own. Buehler told them to completely cover their paper with paint so no white was showing; that was the prelude. The main event was scraping, carving or smearing the paint to create the illusion or effect of relief. The first-graders went to town with rollers, sponges and other tools, including fingers as well.
Sebastian Wilson used a wad of sponges to cover his page, frowning as inspected his work.
Im a messy artist, Wilson told Buehler.
It happens to the best of them, she assured him.
Nearby Nathan Mansfield and Trevor Anderson took her instructions and ran with them. Anderson was trying to see how many different colors he could use at one time to fill up a sponge and Mansfield seemed bent on creating a pile of different colors by squeezing the poop out of it, but they both always ended up with the same gray mess.
Thats a little too much paint, Buehler counseled. Guys, on your next one, not so much paint, it makes it hard to find the paper.
They werent the only ones getting into it; in the background Calhoun could be heard telling someone Lets not paint that, lets paint the paper.
As the initial excitement wore off the budding artists showed they were getting the hang of it. Maggie Hansen is a blue-eyed cutie who was on task. She took a couple base colors and created the ridges and waves of a basket weave pattern by scraping them around neatly as Buehler instructed.
I think its scratchy and spotted and colorful, Hansen said.
Their work that day was used the next week to create a larger set of art works. The pages of patterns and textures were cut up into collages representing buildings and other landmarks around Marysville and Snohomish County.
Were going to make more art with the art you made, Buehler explained.
She has a masters degree in art history from the University of Washington and a bachelors degree in print making, and taught at the Seattle Art Museum for 10 years. Now she teaches the best practices in art instruction to teachers.
Buehler was at Sunnyside largely due to the efforts of Dana Hansen, a teacher at the elementary school since 1998 who wanted to see her students get a solid footing in art at an early age. Hansen wrote the grant application with the help of Everett artist Susan Russell, who will be in residence at Sunnyside later in the spring. There are before- and after-school art programs but Hansen felt they werent reaching enough students and sought the state money to develop an arts curriculum for grades K-5. The grant was provided by the Washington State Art Commission Artist-in-Residence program.
What inspired me to write the grant was to bring the arts into the elementary school, Hansen said.
Buehler worked with the first three grades, focusing on art and literature, and Russell will visit in the spring to tutor the older kids, integrating science with the arts. Hansens plan is to use the grant to reach out into the community and pull in more resources and then give back by displaying the results in the Marysville Public Library or some other public venue