Volunteers provide art instruction for Verbena studentsBy Stephen Dawkins Published 12:35pm Thursday, March 13, 2014
Though art is no longer part of the curriculum for Chilton County students, there are those who still believe in art’s value.
So, Donna Smith, Gina Willis and others took matters into their own hands and have volunteered art instruction for Verbena students.
Those involved with the effort credit fourth grade teacher Lynn Hauswirth with the original idea. She approached Principal Kelvin Boulware, who then asked local artist Willis, who is also Boulware’s sister, if she could lend a hand. Smith, a Verbena counselor, joined in to help as well, and Hauswirth and Elizabeth Byrd with the Chilton County Arts Council have also been involved.
The lessons are held once a month for about 340 students, which is all of those in kindergarten through sixth grade at Verbena.
The first lesson was about shapes and composition. The second lesson was led by Byrd and included the group of students cooperating to build a “trash monster” for display at the Chilton County Fair.
Also, each student designed a poster to be shown at the fair.
For Christmas, the students created holiday-themed collages with glitter, construction paper and other material.
“They got messy, and they liked that,” Willis said.
Last week, Smith and Willis were teaching the students about pointillism, a technique in which small, distinct dots of pure color are applied in patterns to form an image.
The students created their own St. Patrick’s Day-themed works with oil pastel crayons.
“We’re trying to expose them to different mediums, different things that they haven’t worked with,” Smith said.
The plan was to enter five of the pieces in the Congressional Art Competition, with winners to be displayed in the Riverchase Galleria.
All the supplies and time the volunteers have provided has been at their own expense.
“That’s one thing that makes it special: It comes from the heart,” Willis said.
Smith, who is a truancy officer for Chilton County schools in addition to her role as a counselor at Verbena, said she thinks programs like the art classes help reinforce good attendance.
“It also makes them more creative in their schoolwork,” she said.
Organizers said they plan to continue the art classes. Willis said next year she would like for students to be able to watch her create an oil painting from beginning to end.
Smith said an art show is planned for the end of the school year, where parents could purchase works that have been created by students during the year, with proceeds to go toward implementing the program again next school year.
“It is a lot of fun to see their naturally occurring creativity,” Willis said. “You see that kids need to be encouraged. These kids would have had no exposure to art.”