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Free art program comes to Free Orchards

Elementary school lets students create


by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: CHASE ALLGOOD - Monserrat Garcia (left) works on a bear mask, while Elsie Bran (right) adds detail to her Minnie Mouse mask during an art literacy lesson at Free Orchards Elementary School.When Nancy Upton and Kim Harrington put their heads together, they found a way to make the Tuesday Art Club a reality at Free Orchards Elementary School in Cornelius.

Upton, the school’s library manager, and Harrington, a half-time teacher, wanted to boost the arts at the 483-student campus, part of the Hillsboro School District.

“I feel kids these days are art-starved,” said Upton. “It feeds a piece of them they cannot get anywhere else.”

With a long history of voluntarism in her childrens’ schools, she was full of ideas — but lacked funds. That’s where Harrington came in.

“There are ways to make things happen,” noted Harrington, who worked with Upton to write a successful grant.

The program began March 4 with a grant of $2,000 from the Washington County Cultural Alliance. When Upton announced the beginning of the Tuesday Art Club, she was overwhelmed to hear students applaud spontaneously. She knew the numbers who were interested would be too high, but promised that anyone who filled out the registration form overnight and brought it back the next day would be in.

Even with the quick deadline, the response of the students required the hiring of a co-teacher.

The art club will run for six weeks and is currently for sixth-graders, with fifth-graders to follow in the next session. It is a voluntary club, free to all and meets after school from 2:20 to 4 p.m. Snacks are provided. Jose Garfias and Jose Lopez, both students in Free Orchards art literacy program, enjoy a mask-making session.

“We have introduced [sixth-graders] to artists such as Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, Rodin and Chris Van Allsburg, as well as local artist Connie Trapp,” Upton said. She wanted them to experience a variety of mediums, from oil pastels to papier-maché. With the grant, members of the club were able to purchase materials.

The overall idea of the program is to allow students to understand the various elements of design — such as the richness of color — concepts taught with the aid of a set of posters. They will also be taught art from a historical perspective by being introduced to biographies of famous artists and their styles.

Twenty students attended the club’s April 1 meeting, creating masks under the guidance of Trapp, a Hillsboro resident who became artist-in-residence for three weekly sessions. Trapp has designed masks for many well-known television shows, including ABC’s “Ugly Betty.”

This month, she’ll oversee their work as students model clay faces on forms, cover clay masks in papier-maché and then paint and decorate the masks, all of which are based on animals.

The enthusiasm of the students was obvious as they formed two lines on either side of a long work table, fashioning their masks. Faith Meyer, one of the students, was working on the horn of her unicorn mask. Next to her, Elsie Bran worked on a Minnie Mouse mask, while Monserrat Garcia formed the face of a bear.

At the end of the table, José Garfias began with the idea of making up his own imaginary animal, but finally settled on a Mickey Mouse mask as José Lopez worked on his own creation nearby.

“It’s fun! It’s social, a good place to really get to know people,” Meyer explained.

For Upton and Harrington, the effort is worth the results.

“Sometimes you start with ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if,’ and you go from there,” said Harrington.




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