Budget cuts and new state mandates jeopardized the future of local elementary art classes last year, but a new partnership with Northwest College has helped fill a void left by the decision to scrap elementary arts programs.
About a dozen NWC students from college teaching instructor Jo-El Sauers have visited the schools each week since March 4, using innovative ways to keep learning and unleashing their creative passions.
“I’m glad we’re doing this,” said NWC freshman photography student Michelle Falkenstine. “These are the ages where you find you are interested in the arts. You need a break from regular all-day classes doing nothing but homework.
Classes began with self-portraits, then focused on lines, abstract expressionism and finally the works of Cody-born Jackson Pollock and his drip technique of pouring or splattering paint onto horizontal surfaces.
“I think the summary has been my favorite part so far,” said Sunset School fifth-grade student Parker Shaw. “Let’s just say that with the self-portrait, I needed to draw a little mask on my face.”
Lesson plans are prepared by Sauers for NWC students and are ready when they show up at schools.
Students are paid $25 an hour by the district for the day of their visit, an added incentive for students looking to broaden their horizons while adding much-needed extra income, Falkenstine said.
Multiple inquiries about the cost of the program from District Finance Manager Dawn Solberg have gone unanswered, but the program appears to be a win-win solution for the district and NWC student teachers.
It’s a chance for students young and old to grow as artists and instructors.
“It was a learning experience for all of us,” said Brendan Boyd, first-year preschool education student. “When the kids found out they were going to have art, they were really excited.”
Fifth grader Patience Domme already has artistically colored hair, took the experience and ran with it.
“The self-portrait was easy for me because I’m an arteeeest,” laughed Domme. “But you couldn’t tell it was me. He had a beard, mustache, bushy eyebrows and a rainbow shirt.
Northwestern students will teach art at local elementary schools until May 13, when the spring semester ends.
“I think one of the best parts about it so far is building relationships with the kids,” Boyd said. “You see them in the community and they’re really excited, and there’s this connection to art classes.”
On Friday, Sunset students showed their appreciation and enthusiasm with “I Love Art” items presented to Boyd and Falkenstine.
“The teachers have been amazing and really encouraging,” Boyd said.
NWC students said they hope the experience will result in something special for the students.
“Every child needs art,” Falkenstine said. “I was this kid in elementary school and middle school who loved art. I don’t know what I would do without it.”