Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Gause Artist in Residence Program

According to Picasso, “Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”  Gause Elementary students have enjoyed the chance to explore their creative side thanks to the school’s highly successful Artist in Residence program which invites practicing artists to teach their art form.

“The goal of our program is to allow students a unique artistic experience each year,” said Carly Hack, Artist in Residence coordinator.   “We want the experience to be enriching, age appropriate and to allow them to explore and expand their own creativity and artistic intelligence.   It is an opportunity for the students to be engaged in a different way of thinking, where there isn’t a right or wrong answer, while being exposed to a variety of art forms and techniques.”

Each class level learns about a different medium using a variety of local artists.  This school year kindergarten classes created clay tiles with a garden theme with Karie Okee.  The first grade students explored drawing techniques and strategies with Elida Field.   Field also worked with second graders on a mixed media collage. Maranee Sanders helped third grade students create Native American inspired masks which they used to act out a play.  The fourth grade students worked with fused glass art under the guidance of Lisa Wilke.  Okee also worked with fifth graders on clay self-portrait tiles.

“The fifth grade classes learned hand building methods to make their self-portrait relief tile,” Okee explained. “They used clay to model their faces and glaze to color them.  They learn the various face shapes, positioning of facial features and proportion and drafted sketches.  It is amazing how well they transcribed the two dimensional sketch to the more three dimensional form of relief.”

Student were challenged to captures their essence of self in the tile.  They each practiced public speaking by presenting their work to their classmates.  Class members then offered meaningful observations of the student’s work as well as compliments on specific elements.

“It’s rewarding to see a student’s skills, confidence and pride grow,” Okee said.  “Teaching also informs by practice as an artist and teacher.  I am constantly surprised by what I learn from my students.”

Okee has been an Artist in Residence at Gause for nine years and believes that people were made to be creative in some way, each day.  “Creativity has no bounds, extending into all that we do,” she said.  “Creative thinkers observe, inquire, interpret and express themselves.  Creativity is what engages us and connects us as community.”

Each Fall the Gause Boosters hold a very successful Sport-a-thon which provides 100 percent of the funding for this program.  Costs include artist time and materials.  Okee applauds the Gause Boosters for valuing the importance of art in the schools.  “In my experience, it is one of the premier programs in SW Washington and the Portland metro area,” she said.  “And the Booster support extends into the classroom, where I would not be able to do what I do without the great help of parent volunteers.”

Hack began volunteering for the Artist in Residence program three years ago.  As program coordinator, she works to find just the right artists that can communicate their art with children.  “The most important trait of a guest artist is how well they can relate to and connect with kids,” she explained.  “There are some amazing artists out there but if they cannot teach elementary students it won’t work.”

Hack, a former teacher from the Bay Area, also works with teachers on scheduling and helping to choose the appropriate project and medium and finds parent volunteers to be in the classroom to assist the artists.

“Through this program students are getting opportunities to explore art that they would not have otherwise gotten,” she said.   “It is a chance to put their right side of their brain to work.  It gives them a chance to be creative and express themselves.  This type of experience is critical in a child’s development.

“I feel very passionate about this program and getting art into the hands of youth,” Hack added.  “I didn’t know how much it would mean to me until I got started and could see results.”