Chrissy Weems on the Art Masterpiece Program
Chrissy Weems’ is an artist and a mother who has volunteered as an Art Masterpiece teacher in her children’s classrooms. Though Chrissy holds her bachelor’s degree in art with an emphasis in painting and ceramics, such a background is not required to volunteer. All it takes is a little creativity and passion to help kids succeed in this area!
What is the Art Masterpiece program?
This program began at the grassroots level in the 1990s. It aims to enrich art education in schools by introducing fine arts to elementary school students. In this way, the program encourages art literacy at a young age.
In the Unified School District of Chandler, Arizona, each elementary school relies on the Art Masterpiece program. The school district does not employ art teachers. Instead, over 1,000 volunteers teach the classes for one hour each month.
How is an art lesson taught through the program?
Students work on a hands on project during each lesson. The goal behind each session is to increase art awareness as opposed to develop any one particular skill. Children learn about elements seen throughout art such as colors, lines and textures.
As children develop an awareness and appreciation of art, they begin to recognize these elements in the everyday world. This leads to a feeling of enrichment throughout life. Importantly, the program gives young students an opportunity to work with different genres and engage in controlled experimentation.
How do volunteers help through the program?
Parents or members of the community at large can volunteer to serve as an Art Masterpiece teacher. The only skill required is a willingness to deliver a brief presentation on the artist of the month. The lessons, as well as prints done by the artist, are provided to the volunteer in advance.
Do volunteers require specific training?
Chrissy Weemsnotes the beauty of this program is that volunteers need not have any artistic background to teach. Because the program focuses on art appreciation, all that is required is a passion for art and education. Following are the general steps required by each volunteer:
- Obtain a copy of the lesson and review the information.
- Contact the teacher with any questions and to set up a time to teach the lesson.
- Organize the art supplies needed for the lesson and present about the artist.
At the beginning of each lesson, the volunteer provides a description of the artist and their preferred technique. Sometimes students believe the print presented in class is an original work. This is a great teachable moment to explain the difference between originals and reproductions.
The students then take that information and use the provided art supplies to create their monthly masterpiece. It is important for the lesson to reinforce the idea that art appreciation is the goal. Children should not have the expectation they will need to create any one element of design. After the brief presentation is delivered, volunteers need only sit back and observe as the students create vibrant works of art.
What is the role of the school district?
Each school is responsible for maintaining and providing the art lessons to volunteers. The school also ensures adequate art supplies are available. Classes are taught per grade level to ensure each student has the opportunity to receive one-on-one attention.
How is the program funded?
The parent-teacher organization at each school funds the Art Masterpiece programs. In Chandler, the goal is to spend just one dollar per student. Donations of art supplies and volunteer instruction typically make this goal a reality.
Why are Art Masterpiece programs important?
Art classes were one of the first programs cut as school districts focused on standardized testing. This is unfortunate for a variety of reasons. Art appreciation and exposure to education across the arts can benefit performance in a number of other areas. For instance, multiple studies have shown students who take art or music classes during high school consistently score higher on their college-entrance examinations.
Chrissy Weems: Benefits of Art Education
The foundation for skills such as creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking is built during the elementary school years. Thinking about art helps young students become thoughtful and develop into strong learners. Though older students can elect to take arts courses in high school, this is oftentimes too late to realize the true value of learning. Here are just a few of the reasons art education is important to young students.
It should come as no surprise that art stimulates the imagination. Cognitive and problem-solving skills are developed as students engage in art projects. Creativity that is a natural part of childhood is lost if not exercised.
Unlike other subjects, there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to art. Students who engage in art learn there is more than one route to success. This leeway develops strong analytical skills and leads students to take the initiative.
Like the development of self-expression, the open-ended nature of art encourages flexibility and risk taking. In life, it is sometimes necessary to make a decision based on just some of the facts. Learning these skills in controlled environment breeds confident and smart decision making.
Arts projects require students to use and develop their fine motor skills. As such, hand-eye coordination improves. A few such examples of how children improve their coordination is through the use of paint brushes, scissors, markers and sculpting.
Concentration and a Sense of Accomplishment
Children enjoy art, and children tend to focus on tasks they enjoy. Because art projects lead to completion, young children learn a sense of accomplishment when they engage in art. This feeling will serve them well when faced with tasks that are not as enjoyable.
Chrissy Weemsis no stranger to art. Her preferred mediums are ceramics and painting, though she expresses her creativity through a number of other avenues. She has started a successful hair bow company as well as accomplished incredible interior designs. The value she has experienced through art encourages Chrissy Weemsto share its benefits with young students.
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