Young at Art
That's the phrase on everyone's lips these days at public schools throughout the country.
In the High Country, various groups and organizations are scrambling to counter the effects of massive state budget cuts at Watauga High School and at the eight elementary/middle schools in Watauga County.
Fortunately for the younger grades at Blowing Rock Elementary School, there is already a program in place that ensures that they receive exposure to the visual arts.
Now in its sixth year, Young at Art is a program that utilizes volunteers to provide art education to the four youngest grade levels at the school, pre-kindergarten through second grade. Young at Art currently serves more than 100 students at Blowing Rock School and presents the art classes on a once a month basis.
The Blowing Rock Art and History Museum (BRAHM) supports the program with addition funding from the Blowing Rock Community Foundation.
"Gina Harwood founded the Young at Art program and was its first volunteer," said Sunny Townes of BRAHM.
This past Tuesday, Young at Art instructors had kids at all four grade levels creating two-dimensional drawings with crayons, markers and colored pencils. The artwork will be used to create ceramic tiles, water bottles, coffee cups, puzzles, magnets, aprons and other items that parents and others can purchase.
The project is a joint fundraising effort between Young at Art and the Blowing Rock PTO. The tiles can be ordered for $6.50 per tile, and plans are now under way to use them for an exhibit at the school.
Young at Art volunteers Susan Graham, Tracy Brown and Erin Dickson instructed Mrs. Felts' second grade class on the correct way to blend markers, crayons and colored pencils to create colorful pieces of art.
"The messier they get, the better," said Graham, the volunteer coordinator for Young at Art. "Coming to this art room is invaluable. They are so interested in art and being creative that we never have any problems with holding their attention or getting them to behave."
Graham added that after second grade, the students at Blowing Rock School receive art instruction from Mr. Safferstone as part of their regular curriculum.
"We used to have art classes for all of the students in Blowing Rock School," Graham said. "Because of budget cuts, we don't have them for the youngest students now. Young at Art makes sure they get exposure to art at an early age."
Last month, the students in the Young at Art program created leprechaun treasure boxes. They were told the story of how just before St. Patrick's Day leprechauns like to move their treasures to new hiding places, such as a small decorative box. The students then decorated their boxes in hopes that a leprechaun would stash his treasure in it.
When the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum opens this fall, it will feature an education center where some of the future Young at Art classes will be held. The museum will also offer art camps, kids painting lessons and family activities through the education center.
To learn more about the Young at Art program, call Sunny Townes at BRAHM at (828) 295-9099. To become a parent volunteer for the Young at Art classes, e-mail Susan Graham at (firstname.lastname@example.org)