“Are your white spots totally covered?” asks Martha Aurelius to a group of preschoolers hunched over white cloths with red, blue, green, pink, or yellow Sharpies in hand. They scribble away, brows furrowed in concentration. “What else could you add? Could you add zigzags or polka dots?”
The children, students of Peninsula Preschool, are on a field trip ‘around the globe’ as a part of Peninsula School of Art’s We LOVE Art programs, their winter outreach program for local students; this year’s theme is Celebrate. “This is Indian fabric painting,” explains Aurelius, the Youth & Community Outreach Coordinator. “It’s for the Holi Festival, the color festival, this is us ‘throwing’ our colors.”
Aurelius leans beside Megan who has a little dripper filled with rubbing alcohol in her small hand. She squeezes the dripper tentatively, watching the cloth absorb the liquid, the colors slowly spread. “This doesn’t smell like water!” Megan laughs.
“You use Sharpies and cover the whole cloth and it’s kind of like tie-dye,” explains Aurelius. “You take rubbing alcohol and it starts spreading.”
“My lady bug is turning electric!” says Isla noticing the colors of her cloth spreading. She drew four images on her cloth: a ladybug, a pizza, a money face, and a rainstorm.
“Look at mine! Look at mine!” a few other children chant as Martha praises Megan’s project.
“We decided to practice our shapes with the preschoolers,” says Aurelius during a brief moment of calm. “We all talked about what shapes we know, what patterns we could do. They did their artists sketch to begin with and then once they were ready we went to drawing with Sharpies. They are learning about creating and the process of design.”
After the project is complete, the students will receive a stamp in their passports and move on to the next country. They visit four countries during their visit. “We go to China, Ghana, around the world,” says Martha. “They learn a little bit about the culture and do a project too.”
Aurelius, who plans and coordinates the We LOVE Art programs, tailors each project to the classes attending that day. “I look at the state standards to see what preschoolers and kindergartens are learning. One of our projects is just cutting and pasting. They still get to make really cool projects, we’re just working on cutting, gluing, talking about shapes and what is a repeating pattern.”
For the older children, including third graders from Gibraltar Elementary School in Fish Creek and eighth graders from St. John Bosco and St. Peter’s Lutheran School in Sturgeon Bay, Aurelius will also add cultural and historical components to the project. “I’m always trying to add an art concept, and art history is part of it,” she says. “It’s perfect with the Olympics – we’re teaching them about global awareness and how to be a good citizen. They are learning about different cultures, we are showing and telling them the difference between [cultures] but also how we’re similar. So we are traveling to each country and celebrating.”
Today the preschoolers are celebrating with fireworks, as many cultures do around the globe. “We all celebrate New Year’s Eve or the New Year, but just in different ways,” Aurelius says.
When the children return from running around the gallery for a few minutes, stretching their legs and releasing some energy, they return to make their own fireworks.
They gather around Aurelius as she takes crayons and uses the full extent of her arm to create marks on the page. “Help me make firework noises,” she says. “Pew, pew, whoosh, whoosh, boom!” The children chime in as Aurelius switches colors and creates a ‘grand finale.’ To create the night sky she switches to watercolors. “What color can the night sky be?” she asks.
Then the children are off to their seats to create their own ‘grand finales,’ complete with sound effects, long marks, squiggles, and dots.
Celebrate is Aurelius’s favorite We LOVE Art program thus far: “I love to travel, I love promoting students traveling and seeing a different world, even if they can’t travel per se, but just to learn about different cultures in an art format.”
When the papers are thoroughly marked with crayons and soaked with watercolors the children enjoy a snack in the gallery, where their artwork will soon be on display.
When they return they will use mirrors and draw their own self-portraits featuring their expression during a fireworks show. “These little guys will have their mouths wide open. It’s so fun,” smiles Aurelius.
The older children will also have the chance to see their expressions in the mirror but will also learn about artists throughout history that use expression in their paintings, such as Frida Kahlo.
The children do not fail to entertain as they return from snack time to examine their expressions in hand mirrors – some looking shocked, pleased, or downright frightened, expressions comparable to those seen around the world during any ‘grand finale.’
Projects created by the students during Celebrate will be on display at The Guenzel Gallery through March 22. The gallery is located at the Peninsula School of Art, 3900 County Road F in Fish Creek. For more information visit peninsulaartschool.com or call 920.868.3455.