Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Junior Picassos

by Jade Bolack

February 27, 2014

WALWORTH — In the Big Foot High School art room, the work tables are covered with bright green paper, which is splattered with paint of every color.
This after-school class isn’t full of high schoolers that keep their paint on their own paper.
This group of first through eighth graders gets messy while they work, and Big Foot Recreation District program coordinator Dean Connley said the paper on the work tables serves as insurance.
For their age, the students’ focus on their work is amazing. The room is quiet most of the time, until someone needs a paint refill.
The Junior Picassos class was originally Connley’s idea when he started working for the recreation department five years ago.
“We started with just a handful of kids, and it keeps growing every time,” he said.
Connley said the class usually has about 20 kids, and a lot are talented.
“We’ve had quite a few kids who have done very nice work while in the class,” he said. “A lot of them do really well. They want to be here, and they want to be doing art.”
Connley said he likes having the elementary students see the high school art room.
“I tell them to look around,” he said. “This is what you can do, if you want, when you’re a little older. Your work can be displayed in the hallways and in this room. It’s great inspiration for them being in here.”
Connley himself has no art training, but he said he can teach the basics.
“This week, we’re doing still life paintings,” he said. “We started using some acrylic paints, and now we’re using this washable project paint. We learned our lesson from that.”
In the center of each work table, tea kettles and miniature chairs are posed for the artists.
Each student has a paint palette, a paint brush and a small Dixie cup full of water. They all have paint on either their arms, face or shirt, too.
A few girls painted rainbows. A boy painted a fire-breathing dragon.
“We start the class with the structured assignment,” Connley said. “Then the kids go where they want to go. They can paint what they like.”
Along with Connley, the assistant program coordinator Kate Berg and intern Matt Meyer help out with the class.
Connley, Berg and Meyer stay busy refilling paint for the students, changing out paper and finding space on the art drying trays for all the artwork.
“These after-school programs and classes, (in) the 4 to 5 p.m. time (period), we try to run those programs ourselves, in-house,” Connley said. “We’re already here. We’re trying to keep the costs down for the programs by just instructing it ourselves.”
The class, held for an hour each Thursday for four weeks, promises to produce enough art to cover a parent’s fridge.
The kids learn about and experience more than just painting while there.
The class teaches basic drawing and sculpting techniques, as well.