by Phillip Manning ~ May 4th, 2015
Disclosure: Phillip Manning serves on the board of directors for the Denali Arts Council, which is hosting the art show discussed in the story.
The value of art education has been established through numerous studies and personal accounts. Many schools, however, are not able to directly fund art programs for their students. Talkeetna Elementary does have an art program, which is funded through grants and local crowdfunding. KTNA’s Phillip Manning spoke with two of the people involved in the program, and has this story:
It’s a lovely, sunny Saturday afternoon in Talkeetna. Many people around town are clearly taking any excuse they can not to be inside, but there is a large group that has gathered around and inside the Sheldon Community Arts Hangar. The Hangar regularly displays Alaskan art, but this show is different, because every piece on display was made by students at Talkeetna Elementary School. To explain the show, I spoke with art teacher Bekah Mathiesen.
Before Saturday’s opening, Mathiesen walked me through the various displays. She says every student has at least one piece that he or she worked on in the show. We begin by the front door with a rendition of Van Gogh’s Starry Night made up of small squares.
“What I did is I gridded out an actual poster of the painting, and then each individual child in 5th and 6th grade got a block. And, they got to do it however they wanted to do it or however they interpreted it.”
As we walk through the various group and individual projects on the ground floor, Bekah Mathiesen tells me that, beyond art technique, parents wanted their children to have more world history education.
“I got a lot of different ideas from different parts of the world. So, I did a Monet project, but then I connected it with France and talked about France. We did Georgia O’Keefe, we and talked about the Midwest. We did Greek vases; we did Hamsas that originated in Israel. So, we tried to go to the far corners of the Earth for this particular art show.”
Bekah Mathieson says that the students are enthusiastic about art, and the feedback about the program has been very positive thus far.
“I’ve really had nothing but positive feedback from people, and it’s been really amazing. Art is my lifeblood. I just really think that it’s so important to build a foundation for these kids, and this is such an artistic community. To fill that void for them, I think, is really important, and I’m really glad that other people support it as well.”
Since the art classes are funded by the Talkeetna Elementary PTA, community fundraising has been a big part of the effort. Caitlin Palmer headed the committee that raised funds for the first two years of art classes.
“We decided that if we could fundraise and pay for an art teacher, that would hope that the school would be agreeable to getting someone in the door, and they did. So that’s what we started doing, just total grassroots…”
Initial funds came from the Jessica Stevens Community Foundation as well as a GoFundMe page. Caitlin Palmer says over $8,000 of donations came in the form of cash and art supplies. The first year of the program entailed 16 weeks of art classes. Now, the PTA and the school are looking to expand the program.
“This year, we were asked to increase that, so we had eighteen weeks. Next year, we’re asked to increase it to the entire school year, so that’s thirty-six weeks, which is really amazing.”
With an expanded program comes the need for more funding. Caitlin Palmer says the PTA is looking into grant funding for art classes, and a new GoFundMe account has been set up for next year.
The art created by Talkeetna Elementary students over the last year will remain on display at the Sheldon Community Arts Hangar for two weeks.