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Published: Monday, 2/27/2006

Kids head to college for art lessons

Adrian College art education student Stephanie Witcher watches over the shoulder of Alison Carpenter, 8, left, as she works with Autumn Fineran, 8, at Adrian College. Fourteen students participated in a six-week session at the college. This session focused on the work of Keith Haring, a pop artist whose use of simple line and color made for eye-catching images. Adrian College art education student Stephanie Witcher watches over the shoulder of Alison Carpenter, 8, left, as she works with Autumn Fineran, 8, at Adrian College. Fourteen students participated in a six-week session at the college. This session focused on the work of Keith Haring, a pop artist whose use of simple line and color made for eye-catching images.
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ADRIAN - Great Lakes winters may feature a dreary palette of monochromatic tones, but a classroom in Adrian has been a study in color.

Fourteen elementary and middle school students spent six Saturdays learning how to use color to its best advantage in the Youth Art Program, a cooperative effort of Adrian College, the YMCA of Lenawee County, and Lenawee Council for Visual Arts. The program is designed to give the children access to materials and instruction not available in a public school setting, said Debra Irvine, director of the long-running program and a lecturer in the college's art and design department.

"They can create projects they wouldn't be allowed to do in public schools because of limited time or materials," said Ms. Irvine, a former public school teacher. "This gives them an opportunity to use different materials or do bigger products. That's our goal, to expand what they could do."

The program runs three times a year, and the next session will start in July, said Pi Benio, an art and design professor at Adrian College.

During the most recent session, students learned about the physics of color, how color affects emotions, the basics of shape, motion, and color, and even a bit of art history.

Samantha Merritt, 7, left, offers a helping hand to Kamianna Piekarek, 9, as she glues down a portion of her art project. Samantha Merritt, 7, left, offers a helping hand to Kamianna Piekarek, 9, as she glues down a portion of her art project.
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The last session covered the work and techniques of Keith Haring, a pop artist whose use of simple line and color made for eye-catching images. Mr. Haring, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1990, was also known for social activism, but the program kept the children focused on Mr. Haring's medium, not the message, Ms. Irvine said.

The students worked in clay, including a lesson on glazing; made baskets using materials such as yarn and cord; made pop-up cards in conjunction with a history lesson on St. Valentine, and even frosted cookies in creative ways. "It came out wonderful," Ms. Irvine said, "but they didn't last long."

Scholarships are available for students who qualify for their schools' free lunch programs. Some students sign on for multiple sessions, Ms. Irvine said.

"One family's been returning for three years, and you can definitely see the kids progress through the sessions," she said. "Their drawing skills seem to advance, but I guess that comes with age too. They get a lot of one-on-one teaching."

The sessions climax with an art show.

"The kids really enjoy seeing their work on display," Ms. Irvine said. "They're very proud of that. One boy brought his whole family, brothers, sisters, everything."



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