Young artists get extra training at elementary school

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Advanced Studio Art students of Alex Miller, left, use their viewfinder fingers to select an item to draw in a still life picture.

Young Picassos and Kahlos are perfecting their own unique artistic skills in a new class at Greencastle-Antrim Elementary School. Advanced Studio Art is the setting for 13 fifth graders who successfully applied to participate.

“Students have art every year in elementary school. The middle school does not offer art in sixth and eighth grades. I’m preparing them for that,” said teacher Alex Miller. “They have so much interest and talent. I want them to learn how to be an artist on their own.”

The children applied with a drawing and essay, so that Miller could determine who would be the best fit creatively. He had to turn down many students in order to maintain a manageable class size.

“Some deserved to be in it, but I couldn’t take them all,” he said.

He is treating the class as an academic course, with weekly assignments and grades issued each marking period, although they will not go on the permanent record. The group meets about once a week over lunch in the art room.

At a recent session, students munched on chicken fries, au gratin potatoes and pineapple, then cleared the tables to get down to artistic business. Miller evaluated sketches  projected onto a wall. Blake Dixon, 10, had drawn a guitar leaning against a dresser.

“The shadow looks like it’s attached. That’s a good thing,” Miller said. He also complimented the angle of the view.

He then introduced the lesson, drawing a still life with charcoal.

Studio member Madyson Bingaman, 10, wore a bright green T-shirt, matched by a cast on her leg.

“Green is my favorite color,” she said of the deliberate coordination. She enjoys the accelerated art class to keep her skills fresh from a summer of drawing. “Whenever I’m not swimming, I draw.”

Bella Facchina, 10, had eclectic reasons for attending. “I like to draw and sculpt with clay. We made pinch pots.”

Brady Sperry, 10, liked everything about art. He favored the assignment Not a Chair. “We had to shade around it, and the chair showed up. We couldn’t draw lines.”

Miller gave homework for Christmas vacation - to draw an idea. The pieces would be evaluated on task, creativity, space, detail and craftsmanship. The topic was a favorite holiday memory.

In reviewing some of the students’ earlier submissions, he said, “A lot of their work is exceptional, especially for the fifth-grade level.”