Most sixth grade students think art is the skill to draw a horse so it looks like a horse. But students at Grantsville Elementary now have a greater understanding of art as a form of expression, due to the Artist in Residence program. Samples of their work are on display through the month of February at the Tooele School District Office, 92 West Loadstone.
The Utah Arts Council program invites musicians, painters, sculptors and other artist to visit classrooms, giving students a hands-on experience with creation. At Grantsville Elementary, abstract artist Valerie Price showed some 150-160 students how to express feelings with art.
“She taught them what feelings and emotions have to do with art,” said Jeanette Boyer, sixth grade teacher at Grantsville Elementary. “She taught them how to think outside the box about what anger or frustration looks like in art.”
Boyer said since there is no right or wrong way to express emotions, “they could all succeed.”
Price used the book “Tangerine” by Edward Bloor as a jumping off point for the 10-week art program. Students listened to the book on tape and then illustrated an emotion from the book. “It was an absolutely fabulous book,” said Natalie Barrus, another Grantsville Elementary sixth grade teacher. Barrus was the only of the five teachers who had not read the book before the Artist in Residence program. She took the opportunity to follow the book over the 10- week period. “The suspense was killing me,” she said.
Finally, on the last week she couldn’t stand it anymore and read ahead to the end.
“The students felt like I betrayed them,” Barrus said.
Barrus said the program not only taught students about art, it also increased their interest in literature.
In addition, she found the program met the needs of students who might not be reached otherwise.
“There are kids who might not like spelling, and might not like math, or who might not like whatever. But if art is their strength (having an art program in school) keeps them interested, and keeps them in school.”
She said she had some concerns about one of her students at the first of the year. But this student and Price “really connected.”
While the student was hesitant at first, concerned that his work wasn’t good enough, by the end of the 10-week program “he didn’t ask, he just went to work.”
This student behaved well for Price and showed better behavior in his regular classroom as a result of the program. “He liked the extra attention,” she said.
The young artists worked with mixed medium including tissue paper and glue, India ink, acrylic paints, charcoal, construction paper, oil pastels and watercolor.
Students were told they could not make recognizable shapes. But Barrus, who says she is not an artist, loved what they did because “I could make something look pretty.”
Students were very receptive to the program, Boyer said. “We had the artist visits on Wednesday, and the kids don’t show up, were always there on Wednesday.” Price taught the youngsters they “all could do it, all could succeed at it (art)” Boyer said.
The Artist in Residence program “should happen in every grade everywhere,” she said. “I just loved it. I hope it comes back and I hope other schools have the chance,” to have an Artist in Residence program.
While Grantsville is “absolutely trying to do it again,” it’s uncertain if they have been given a grant for the 2005-06 school year.
Regardless, Barrus believes Price has taught an approach she could use in her classroom.
As part of the Artist in Residence program, Price also taught an art inservice class to the Grantsville faculty.
The program ran from October through December of 2004.
Price is a freelance artist living in Utah. Her art is on display in several galleries and she works in community arts programs for youth.