SILVERTON - Sixty-five kindergarten students at Eugene Field School spent part of a recent Monday morning experimenting with art genres and techniques like pointillism, pop art and self portraits. Some of them even tried drawing while laying on their backs, like Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
This Art Discovery Workshop at Eugene Field is part of the Silverton Arts Association's Art Partnership Program, which is designed to help provide art education in area schools.
Eugene Field School no longer has art instruction outside of what the classroom teachers are able to do.
Silverton Arts Association board member Joe Craig, who was one of a host of volunteers at the special workshop, said local art supporters are dismayed by the recent cuts to art education programs.
"We think art is important as a creative growing process for children," Craig said. "It can be one of the main things that keeps a kid attached to school. For some kids it might be sports, for others art, and for others something else. Also, art education is important for the community."
The group of kindergarteners gathered in the gym certainly seemed to agree with Craig. With the assistance of art association volunteers and Silverton High School student volunteers, the children were extremely focused, moving as they wished among the four activities offered.
When Craig and a couple of the high school students starting taping paper underneath some benches, offering kids a chance to lay on their backs and draw with markers, there was an immediate line of enthusiastic, would-be Michelangelos.
The art association has four "focus schools" - Eugene Field, Robert Frost, Pratum and Silver Crest - which will receive one art workshop for each grade level during the school year. In addition, the other schools in the Silver Falls School District also will receive a workshop during the year.
Arts Association Education Director Stacy Higby, coordinator of the program, said an unsuccessful grant application did not stop the association from moving ahead with the Art Partnership effort.
"We applied for a grant to provide one class per month for the four focus schools here," Higby said. "When we didn't receive the grant, we kind of pulled back and shifted our thinking about how we could still provide a quality art experience for the kids."
The association has been seeking community donations to help fund the program, and while the response has been encouraging, both Higby and Craig said more support is needed.
The result of the rethinking of the program is the Art Discovery Workshop, which introduces students to a variety of artistic styles. A recent workshop for 150 first graders at Eugene Field included six different activities.
Jennifer Hannan, Eugene Field principal, is very pleased with the program.
"It's essential, as we have had to cut all of our art instruction. Teachers are doing a great job in the classroom trying to fill in these gaps, but to have the art association come in gives the kids a whole different perspective, as well as providing teachers with some different ideas on how to provide instruction in their classrooms," Hannan said.
She noted that this is the first year the school is making due without instructors in art and physical education and without librarians, and she wishes she could get even more assistance.
"We would love to have (the art association) here three times a week."