Migration Art Program for Conesville Elementary

  • Conesville Elementary receives a $30,000 TeachArtsOhio grant from the Ohio Arts Council for arts programming.
  • Anne Cornell of the Pomerene Center for the Arts is a guest artist in Conesville for the program. She has been in Conesville for three years and was in Keene the previous two years.
  • The program does not replace the arts in building, but is a complement to the program as artistic elements are incorporated into regular courses.
  • This year’s arts program will focus on migration related to Conesville’s closure and the relocation of students and staff to a new building for the 2023-2024 school year.

CONESVILLE — Migration will be the theme of a special arts program this school year at Conesville Elementary School as students and staff prepare to move into new buildings in the 2023-2024 school year.

The school received a $30,000 TeachArtsOhio grant from the Ohio Arts Council to fund arts programming. Local schools in River View have not had an elementary arts program for several years due to budget cuts. However, the administration and teachers have been looking for ways to incorporate art into their curriculum.

Anne Cornell, executive director of the Pomerene Center for the Arts, began working with students from Keene Primary School in 2018. She had been there for two years and had been in Conesville for three years. Cornell, as a guest artist, collaborates with teachers on project ideas.

“It’s very difficult to serve a very large number of people, especially children, from a small institution making art and reaching a large base of children,” Cornell said of his work solely through the Pomerene Center. “It’s so exciting to be able to reach and hopefully impact large numbers of children and it’s being done effectively in schools.”

She said the program has grown from a few small art projects in the classroom to a large year-long play with a few side projects and other artists. An outdoor reading room was created last year with the creation of chairs and displays. .

Franken-Readers was an art project by Conesville Elementary School students last year.  Pieces of images were divided and assembled to provide a banner by grade level and placed in an outdoor reading area.

Banners called Franken-Readers were reconstructed from drawings students made of children reading. A picture can have a book of a picture, a foot of another, eyes of another and so on. Each grade level has its own Franken-Reader banner. A white hallway in the lower part of the Conesville building features dot obliteration with students placing dots of different sizes and colors on the walls.

Principal Jarred Renner wouldn’t call it a substitute for their art program, but an art component coinciding with classes. For example, a side art project last year involved choreographing an interpretive dance demonstrating the different stages of the water cycle portion of third-grade science.

“It’s not a replacement for kids learning to use the different media in art, but it comes and goes with the curriculum they’re already learning,” Renner said.

Last year, students at Conesville Elementary School placed various colored and sized dots in a plain white hallway in the building for an art project called Dot Obliteration.

Tom Dugdale, an assistant professor in the Department of Theater, Film, and Media Arts at The Ohio State University, met with students at the end of last school year and told them about the closure of the American electric plant just outside the village. Their comments were used in a storytelling project. Dugdale and Cornell are also working on a theatrical presentation about the plant closure and its impact on the region in which student stories will also be incorporated.

Due to budget cuts resulting from the loss of $2.2 million in tax revenue from the plant closure, River View will be reconfigured in the 2023 to 2024 school year. Conesville and Keene will be closed, l elementary school in Warsaw serving as a kindergarten to second grade building. Third through sixth graders will be in high school, with Renner as principal, and seventh through twelfth graders will be in high school.

Due to the transition, migration will be a main theme this school year in Conesville. This includes examining migrations in world and US history and in nature with birds and other animals. Renner said staff and students have fears about what’s to come and he thinks this theme is a constructive way to address them, a way to calm the transition. The exact art projects are to be finalized, but will be related to the theme of migration.

“We look at all these different ways that people and animals migrate and how it’s not always a bad thing. Most of the time it’s for a reason. We do it for progress or to gain an advantage,” said Renner said. “A lot of times with migration there’s this unknown factor that causes anxiety, but that’s not always a bad thing. Good things can come from it.”

Leonard Hayhurst is community content coordinator and generalist reporter for the Coshocton Tribune with nearly 15 years of local journalism experience and multiple awards from the Ohio Associated Press. He can be reached at 740-295-3417 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @llhayhurst.

Kayleen C. Rice