Art specialists touch on Northwest Coast Native art

Specialists funded through Larson Family Foundation, Art for Kids

Posted: Thursday, February 02, 2006

Northwest Coast Native art has a fresh audience in Juneau.

Grade school students across the district are being taught about Pacific Northwest art in the second round of lessons created and taught by two art specialists hired this school year. Heather K. Ridgway and Nancy Lehnhart have developed lesson kits for first-, third- and fifth-grade classes, designed to be used by teachers.

Ridgway spent Wednesday at Mendenhall River Community School teaching Deedie Sorensen's split second- and third-grade class about form-line drawing in Northwest Coast Native art.

"We've got so much cultural appreciation happening right now," she said.

The two art specialists were hired with the help of Art for Kids and a grant from the Larson Family Foundation.

Sorensen said art is critical to the students' development and helps broaden their educational horizons.

"We have a community that is very rich in its appreciation of all different forms of artistic endeavor," Sorensen said.

"The Native arts in and of themselves are a fascinating study," she added. "The children are surrounded by it so they should understand it."

Michael Moulton, 8, was drawing an eagle-head design Wednesday. He said he likes art because "it's fun."

"Well, it's hard," he said emphatically. "You get to draw stuff and it feels good. Because when you're done it looks good."

Jeremiah Stephens, 7, said he likes to draw because art is cool.

Ridgway said getting students involved in art at an early age can help them blossom in other academic subjects as they grow older.

"Every student needs a real basic, clear understanding of the elements of art and how they work for them in their lives in many different ways," she said.

Sorensen said the art lessons also benefit the teachers so they can apply art more in their classrooms.

"The thing that's so wonderful about this program is that we have people coming in and demonstrating lessons for the children, but also for the teachers," she said. "I'm learning just like the children are learning. We're learning some of the same things, and different things. But it's really beneficial to all of us in the classroom."

The art specialists will teach the third and final section of the art program in each of the elementary schools, including charter and Montessori schools, in April and May. The art program has not secured funds for next year at this time.

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