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Art therapy

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

(Photo)
Middle school students from Tori Storm's transitional behavior class attend Arts on Grand once a month on the Spencer Community School District's early-out days. Over the past semester, the students have completed several art projects, including one that required them to paint boxes, glue crushed eggshells on the top, and then displace liquid watercolor from the eggshells using liquitex.
(Photo by Kate Padilla) [Order this photo]
Once a month, on a Wednesday, the Spencer School District dismisses school at 12:30 p.m. in order to give teachers and staff time for professional development. On those days, the students of Tori Storm's transitional behavior class arrive at Arts on Grand at 10 a.m., ready to work on an art project that Assistant Director Jackie Stellish has planned for them.

"We started it as a pilot program," Stellish said. "The original proposal was to go into their classroom and bring the art to them, but the principal (Pat Hamilton) suggested they just come here."

The students -- usually between 15 and 16 of them -- arrive at the gallery around 10 a.m., and stay until about 11:15 a.m.

On Wednesday, April 30, their last visit of the school year, the students finished a project they began the visit before. They arrived with their cardboard boxes brightly painted and adorned with eggshells glued to the lid. During this session they would paint the eggshells with liquid watercolor then again with pouring medium to displace the watercolor across the top of the lid.

"For the final project of the year, I wanted to make it a little more extensive," Stellish said "We started with Gesso, which is an absorbant ground used as a base for their acrylic and watercolor painting. I like how the watercolor blends with the acrylic, especially using the Gesso."

Treyton Johnson, a member of Storm's class, liked coming to the monthly sessions because he likes art.

"I painted my box yellow," he said. "But I only moved my brush in one direction so it has a texture kind of like wood."

Nathan Pullen, also in Storm's class, appreciates the hands-on nature of the sessions.

"My favorite project was the 'snakes,'" he said, referencing a project in which the students molded aluminum foil over Styrofoam before painting. "It created really interesting bumps and designs. To me, the finished project reminded me of an island, and the bumps became mountains."

Storm and Stellish both said the program helps the students in part because it gives them another avenue to express their creativity.

"It's good for them if it's not just constantly about academics," Storm said. "A lot of these kids use the other side of their brain, and it's good for them to broaden their horizons. They don't always get the opportunity to do that."

Inspiration for the program came as a combined result of Stellish's previous work in Storm's classroom, and her appointment as the assistant director of Arts on Grand.

"She called me when she got the job, and we talked about it," Storm said. "We came up with the idea together."

Assisted by a grant from the Spencer Schools Foundation, the program began to move forward.

But the benefits, Storm noted, aren't only in the creativity the students are able to express through their art projects.

"A lot of time when you're in a classroom setting, you generalize a lot of the social skills you learn," she said. "You see how they react in different situations."

On Wednesday, while the students waited for the liquid watercolor to dry before applying the pouring medium, they spent time looking at the entries and winners of the 2014 student art show, now on exhibit.

"It showed them what they could do someday," Storm said. "One of the girls I had a few years ago had some projects up there. I thought it was so neat to see her name, and for them to see how well they could do. It's good to have my kids see a different part of the world."



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