"Pull towards your belly button," Hillary Buck told children as they attempted to shape a lump of clay she placed on a wheel Saturday during the Community Arts Celebration.
Daniel Peters, 7, seemed hypnotized by the spinning clay as Buck, an arts student at University of Alaska Southeast, urged him to shaped it with both hands.
He tentatively put out one finger and stared at the wheel as the clay changed form under his touch. The lump became a small bowl within a few minutes, then Buck instructed him, "OK, squish it." He didn't hesitate then to smash the bowl flat.
Peters' whirl at the potter's wheel was just one artistic adventure going on in the Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School cafeteria, where dozens of children tried weaving, making stained glass and crafting totes out of recycled plastic newspaper bags.
Saturday's free event was meant to celebrate arts in the community, said Arts for Kids board President Suzanne Malter. The nonprofit organization started the annual event four years ago to raise awareness of the need for more art classes for elementary students.
With a strong program now in place that allows three full-time specialists to rotate between the elementary grades, Malter said the organization will now turn its attention to advocating for more art at the high-school level.
"Kids love art," she said. "It stimulates learning."
About 20 local artists donated their time Saturday to provide a dozen crafts stations that offered children endless creative opportunities. Chipped colorful glass, bleached clam shells and what seemed like a truckload of markers, crayons, colored pencils and chalk sparked the imaginations of many children who attended.
Clayton, 3, wore a paper hat he made while painting a canvas four times his size with a fat brush dipped liberally in green paint. He drew Z's across the page while his father, Mitchell McDonald, encouraged him.
McDonald said Clayton and his 7-year-old brother, Trey, looked forward to the event.
"There are so many things here the kids can stick their hands in," he said as Clayton wiped paint onto his smock. "It's easy to come here, get dirty and go home - no cleanup."
Contact reporter Kim Marquisat 523-2279 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.