Arts & Culture / Mosaic / January 20, 2010

Beyond finger-painting

Galesburg Civic Art Center’s Kid’s Month brings children, parents, teachers and high school students together in an environment filled with laughter and exploration. January 7 to January 29 is Kid’s Month at the Civic Art Center in downtown Galesburg. Kid’s Month is a chance for children to express themselves through art outside of the classroom.

Kid’s Month starts off with two weeks of workshops for children to create their art. At the end of the month, Galesburg Civic Art Center puts up all the artwork for families and community to see.

The room was filled with kids from kindergarten to fifth grade working with their parents to create projects special to them. Some children looked to their parents for help, while others told their parents exactly what they were going to do. Giggling came from every corner of the room during the paper mache mask project, while the glass mosaic project inspired quiet concentration.

Chad Ellison, an art teacher at Galesburg High School, was the artist-organizer of Kid’s Month this January. He normally teaches ninth to twelfth graders, but really enjoyed working with the younger kids. Kid’s Month was not an unfamiliar experience for Ellison, since he taught grades kindergarten to twelfth when he worked in Peoria.

The projects the children worked on came from Ellison. He was particularly excited about the glass mosaics, as were the participants. Elke Narkiewicz says she loved that her daughter Stella got a chance to make the glass mosaic because her daughter has never really gotten the chance to do such free form and abstract art.

Colton Myers, age six, used blue, green, orange, clear and lots of red. His grandmother added that his favorite color is red. Myers made a clay mask the day before. To make his mask, he flattened and rolled clay to make designs. Then he put the pieces on the mask, poked three little holes for the eyes and nose, and added a mustache. Julia Deastedt, Colton’s grandmother, explains they heard about Kid’s Month through Colton’s school. Colton has gone to Kid’s Month with his mother and grandmother.

Ellison chose mixed media collages, watercolor landscapes, cartooning, paper mache masks, clay sculptures, clay masks and clay bowls for this year’s activities. About two or three projects are done per day, giving the children the option to stay all-day or only for certain creations.

Ellison noticed “the parents are excited because children haven’t really had the opportunity to do a lot of this art.” He was happy he could give the children the chance to create things that they might not otherwise have the chance to, and he loved to see the satisfaction when the kids know they have created something special.

Student volunteers were a very important part of Kid’s Month this year. Ellison recruited all of the volunteers from Galesburg High School. He explains that they are students who want to be art teachers, artists or just love art. Claire Leahy, age 15, participated in Kid’s Month as a child and is now a volunteer for her first year. She explains their role as moving around to help the children if they need it and to make sure everything is moving along smoothly. Leahy loves helping because, “[The kids] so friendly.”

For the students like Tanner who are thinking of teaching art, this is a valuable experience. When it was time to switch to the paper mache masks, it was up to Tanner to teach the children. In between the end of the glass mosaic project and the beginning of the paper mache masks, the room got pretty loud. Ellison gave Tanner advice to gain control of the room.

“As soon as you take control, you have control,” he said. Tanner took control and with the help of his fellow volunteers, taught the children step by step how to make their masks.

Although parents were sitting with their children, most of the creation was left completely up to the kids, even cutting their own paper. The children remain relatively attentive doing the instruction, although there was plenty of periodic giggling. At one point a young girl held up her mask to her face and looked at her mom. Her mom responded by pretending to poke through the eyeholes. The girl giggled and went back to listening to Tanner.

Tanner is a junior at Galesburg high School and knows he wants to be a professional artist. He is also considering being an art teacher for young kids. He agrees with Ellison that helping with Kid’s Month is a great opportunity. Tanner says he wants to gain experience as a leader and have experience teaching art if he chooses to pursue that career. His favorite part about volunteering was “showing the kids how to be creative and expressive through artwork.”

Siblings Camellia, 6 and Juniper, 4, Schwartzman created masks along with their mom, Huong Hue. Younger Juniper had fun drawing a house with rays the previous Saturday, and was enjoying making a paper mache mask with her mom. Camellia also drew a picture on Saturday. Her picture was anti-war. A pin she wears which says “food not bombs” inspired her. She explained that the picture is her pin with the words and picture in the pin along with the words “peace” and “Knox”.

“It is good that students from all over can go there,” Camellia says of Knox College. Surrounding the pin are rays of bright and dark colors. The bright colors represent stopping war and the dark colors represent continuing the war. “There are more bright colors than dark colors which mean the good guys will win,” said Camellia.

Kid’s Month managed to bring many age groups together within the community. Even more people will have the opportunity to turn out to see the artwork during the exhibition from January 21 to January 29.

“I really enjoy working with the community from parents to children.” Ellison said of his experience this year. He hopes next year will be even better.

Chad Ellison taught K-12 art in Peoria for 12 years. He has worked at residency programs, Lakeview Museum, and the Peoria Art Guild. He currently teaches ninth through 12th grade at Galesburg High School, mostly teaching sculpture.

Jennifer Lloyd

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