FACES AND PLACES - Picture Lady program brings art to life

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Students at area schools explored the concepts of light source and shadow while studying Rembrandt last fall. The resulting self-portraits made for a colorful Picture Lady display at Prospect Point Elementary.

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Student self-portraits.

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Teacher portraits from Picture Lady projects inspired by Rembrandt.

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Students created whimsical avatars (representations of self) with recycled art supplies while studying Mary Cassatt.

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In a nationwide atmosphere of results-oriented teaching, art is typically the first thing to go. Although there is still class time scheduled for music and physical education at the elementary level, artistic endeavors are at each teacher's discretion. Those of us with kids in the Walla Walla Valley are lucky to have The Picture Lady.

With more than 60 volunteers serving nearly 4,000 kids in our community, the goal of Carnegie Art Center's Picture Lady program is to expose kids to art and artists, giving them the chance to get messy and create.

There are three main principles of the Picture Lady program:

1. Every child, every class.

2. Art has no "right" answer.

3. Art should be available to everyone.

Each spring the Carnegie Art Center board, led by chair Heidi Cohan and head of curriculum Augusta Farnum, selects the artists they will present to Walla Walla school kids from K-5. From each artist, a project is selected that is an appropriate level for elementary school kids. Materials are collected, and at a volunteer training session, the adults who will teach in the classroom do the projects themselves.

Giving the volunteers a chance to work with the materials is not only the perfect training for teaching the selected projects to kids, says Farnum. "It nurtures the adults' creativity as well." Once the adults have figured out each art project, they get to present lessons to a test group of kids of varying ages and skill levels. Projects must be approved by the kids before the volunteers take them to the Valley's elementary classrooms. Once any needed adjustments are made, materials are packed up and ready to deliver to volunteers at the schools.

An undertaking of this magnitude requires a well-organized army. Each participating school has a lead advocate who coordinates the schedules of volunteers with the schedules of the teachers who fit the lessons into their classrooms.

"We have to give so much credit to the participating teachers," says Cohan. "Not only do they give of their already limited instructional time, but in many cases they have pre-taught the curriculum before the volunteers come into the class."

Donations of art supplies were an integral part of the Cassatt project this year - creating personal avatars (representations of self) reusing materials. Denise Slattery, materials coordinator, has recently begun packaging a wide variety of donated materials into individual bags, becoming art projects to go: one bag = one art project or more.

The program survives on donations of cash, time and materials. Consider getting involved in bringing art history education and coordinated art projects to our kids. Volunteers do not need to have an art background - the Carnegie Art Center board will provide all necessary training and tools. Donate art supplies you might have - multiples are especially welcome. And cash donations will never be turned away!

Visit the Carnegie Art Center's Picture Lady studio on the 2nd floor of the Post Office, 2nd & Sumach, or email volunteer Tiffany Jenes at picturelady@carnegieart.com. Find them on Facebook by searching for "The Picture Lady Program."

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