CrossRoads students and Steffen Thomas Museum artists work together on art projects
by stephanie johns • photos by jesse walker
From pottery to drawings, from altered books to ceramics, from origami to multimedia works, students at CrossRoads have been exposed to a variety of art thanks to artists from the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art (STMA).
The STMA artists and students from CrossRoads collaborate on art projects every Wednesday for one hour.
Karen Strelecki, Department Director and Arts Outreach Coordinator, said the two groups have worked together in this manner for the past 12 years.
She complimented the students on their artistic abilities.
“A lot of them are just naturally creative because they think outside the box anyway,” she said.
Alvin Richardson, CrossRoads co-principal, had nothing but positive things to say about this program.
“It’s been a great asset for us to do with our kids,” he said. Speaking of the artists from STMA he said, “They’ve always just done a great job.”
Richardson said the STMA artists have a heart for the kids.
“They’re pros at what they do,” he said. “I can’t say enough about what they’ve done for us.”
Richardson also commented on the artists’ patience with the students as well as the wide variety of art they share with students.
“They hit the waterfront,” he said. “From pottery to drawings to creations with all different kinds of materials.”
Strelecki said the programs run for three years; they are in the second year of their latest program. Their theme: Creative Teens Going Green.
She explained that their work generally contains a recycling component.
“We stress the importance of recycling,” she said. “We were green before it was popular. Steffen Thomas was one of the original recyclers in his lifetime.”
The message they hope to send: be responsible and resourceful.
“We have a trash-to-treasure mentality,” she said, noting that their efforts keep materials out of the landfill.
The current team consists of lead artist Elizabeth Collins, Katie Wibell, and Chuck Hanes.
There are between 15 and 30 students in a class, she said, with an average of 25.
The team often will divide students into groups of about 10, which allows for more individual attention from the artists.
“It makes for a more fulfilling experience for everybody,” she said.
Students work on art projects they can take home, from an altered book to ceramics, to origami.
“We mix it up and vary it,” she said, adding that their current project – the altered book – is one the students are really enjoying.
Strelecki explained that students were given old, recycled books. Their first instruction: rip out a page.
Once students got over their shock, they really got into the project, she said.
She noted that students can reach into a box of artistic goodies to add to their books.
“There’s really no telling what those books will look like,” she said. “They’re telling a visual story. These kids are making this book into more than it was.”
This semester-long project is one students may turn back to when they have time, she said.
Their overarching fall-to-spring project is one they give back to the community. This year: a marquetry mural.
Strelecki said they have pieced together pieces of wood and that the mural depicts cleaning up a lake. The mural is based on one of Steffen Thomas’ images, she said.
When complete the project will be installed permanently in the youth area of the Morgan County Library.
“It’s going to be so beautiful,” she said.
Ricky Moore with Georgia Power makes the display system. She said Moore has been “critical to the success of these programs.”
Students who complete the work are given grades and numeric credit on their transcripts for the hours spent in class. She added that the assignments align with the Common Core State Standards.
“We work hard to make the program beneficial in many ways to the students,” she said.
At the end of the semester they have an award ceremony for students and their work is judged by an independent professional artist from the area. The judge assigns first, second, and third place and teacher’s assign teacher’s choice.
The museum purchases a piece of student art and sells it in their shop. They then take that money and put it back into the program.
Sponsors help make the program possible, she said.
They include Georgia Power: A Southern Co. and Georgia Council for the Arts as well as the CR Bard Foundation, Frances Wood Wilson Foundation, and Conrads Family Fund.
Another way they raise money for their programs is through twice yearly fundraising events. Their next will be March 23. The theme for that event will be "Fascinatin’ Rhythm" with inspiration coming from Great Gatsby and Retro Hollywood.
Printed in the March 21, 2013 edition