By Dawn M. Aerts
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY–While artists may spend hours setting up easel and palette for their work in “plein air,” or to finish a painting to hang in local exhibit, a handful of artists have also opted to share their talent with 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students at Cedar North Elementary.
“Some students may never have stepped into a major art gallery or experienced great art works in an exhibit,” said Principal Raymond Whittier, of efforts to expand fine art opportunities for young people in the School District. “And we wanted to bring the basics of fine art into our classrooms more often.”
As a STEAM-based elementary school, Whittier oversees North’s mission of providing hands-on opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. He believes that featuring local artists in afterschool programs is one additional tool that opens up the classroom to the larger world.
But it’s the artists who will make this happen.
“So far, we’ve featured a watercolor artist and a (retired) art teacher who taught hundreds of students in the school district over the years,” said Whittier of the Art Studio Series. “So much of the time, we push with science and reading skills but ignore the human side of learning, (as a STEAM school), so art is part of the mission.”
Cedar North Elementary offered a five-week afterschool and evening Art Studio Series this fall, with plans to expand fine art opportunities for students both winter and spring. “I was actually a little surprised with the response of parents who wanted more classes,” added Whittier. “We actually had to turn some away – so we’re going to build on this (mission), and see what happens.”
Whittier, who is known for his interest in developing more community-based learning opportunities, is anxious to provide classrooms, equipment and instructors who will fill a niche in community-education.
“We have a beautiful school here, and in some ways it will be a community center, where people can come for some of their educational needs, at a location that is convenient and complements the vision for a vibrant downtown,” he said.
Daun Bredenbroker, participating artist at Cedar North, is optimistic about expanding classes. “I think art is a vital part of a child’s education. We know that the earliest civilizations drew on a cave wall with the charcoal of a burned stick, so we still have that (basic) desire – to express ourselves. There are too many bright, talented, gifted young people that are being overlooked,” Bredenbroker said of her own background and early interest in art.
Teri Rochford, watercolorist, believes the basics of art is key to a well-rounded education. “It’s so important to include Fine Arts for elementary children,” said Rochford. And she remembers drawing all of the time as a young person. “I had struggled with reading, spelling and math – but in art, I was pretty good. So it really gave me more confidence in other subjects, and I’m sure more than a few children out there might feel the same… If we can help just a few it will be worthwhile.”
The recent Art Studio offered introductory drawing, charcoal, pastel and watercolor to over 50 children in Wednesday (afterschool) and Tuesday evening classes. In January and February, Cedar North will feature an advanced class focused on the work of painters like the art masters, Picasso, van Gogh and Renoir.
“I really enjoy working with local artists,” Whittier said. “They tend to be delightful people who always think outside of the box. It’s not about can we do it, but let’s see what we can do!” Though Studio Art has been based at Cedar North Elementary, he expects to expand (community education-like) courses this winter – offering Chess Club, Computer, Geology and Fine Art Skills. Proposed classes will be offered in Studio Art; (drawing, painting), Chess Club, Computer Kids, and Geology Kicks during winter/spring session. For information, call the office at 435-586-2845.
Caption: Art Studio (left to right) Teri Rochford (watercolor artist), Edy Meredith, Principal Ray Whittier and Annie DeHart of Cedar City support fine art classes at Cedar North Elementary School.