Community arts fair at DZ draws hundreds

Arts for Kids program hopes to partly match a one-year federal grant of $175,000 that would pay for two teachers to create, teach art lessons

Posted: Sunday, January 30, 2005

To join or help Arts for Kids

See or write to P.O. Box 210041, Auke Bay, AK 99821.

Willie Benning, a third-grader at Auke Bay Elementary, tried his hand at a potter's wheel for the first time at the community art fair Saturday at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School.

The Arts for Kids nonprofit organization put on the fair, in which artists worked with children, to call attention to the group's efforts to raise money for art in the elementary schools.

The schools rely on regular classroom teachers to teach the arts, other than music.

Arts for Kids hopes to partly match a one-year $175,000 federal grant that would pay for two art teachers to create lessons and teach them to children and the regular teachers, who would then teach art lessons on their own. The grant decision will be announced in April.

"If you push hard on the outside, it will flare in," potter Joe Buck told Willie as the boy's hands grazed the outside of a wet, spinning pot. "Just move very slowly," Buck added.

Later, under Buck's practiced cupped hands, the pot quickly grew to a well-rounded shape. At the end, he let Willie dismantle it.

"You better smash it. Feels good, doesn't it?" Buck said.

"I did it because I never tried to throw (a pot) before," Willie said. "I really enjoyed it because it felt really gushy on my hands."

Constance Hartle worked on an acrylic painting of a landscape near Whitehorse for a shifting audience of children and adults.

"The kids want to tell me what they do (in art)," she said. "That's a good thing. It means they're proud of what they do."

Hartle recently helped children at the Juneau Community Charter School complete silk-like banners, which hang from the ceiling.

"When the kids walk underneath, it's like they're breathing," she said. "There are 60 kids. There are 60 different banners."

Kay Field Parker of the Raven's Tail Weavers' Guild showed children how to weave a basket of yarn around an empty yogurt cup.

The cup's side, cut into strips, is the warp. The yarn, twined in and out of the strips, is the weft.

"I think art enhances everyone's life, kids the same way as everyone," Parker said. "You need that in your life."

Tiana Escalante brought her daughter, Taylee, a fourth-grader, and a friend to the fair. They all wove yarn baskets, and the girls made glass mosaics too.

"I think it would enrich their lives more to have more arts (in the schools), especially in a town that's so rich in the arts," Escalante said.

Taylee said she's made sculpture out of aluminum foil in the classroom.

Art is "funner" than some subjects, she said. "And it calms you down when you're hyper."

Brenna Heintz, one of about 25 Juneau-Douglas High School students who volunteered at the fair, said she would have killed in elementary school to be able to do some of the crafts, such as leatherworking, at Saturday's event.

The tables for printmaking, mosaics and leatherwork attracted young kids - so young they were the same height standing up or sitting down at the picnic-style tables.

Heintz helped a little girl roll pink ink onto a plastic-foam form, then press the form face down on a piece of red paper. Soon another girl pressed forward with a form.

With 45 minutes left in the three-hour fair, Jackie Tagaban, in charge of making Arts for Kids buttons in a machine, said she had given out more than 300 of them.

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