As a kid, I relished art time at school. Our art teacher showed us how to paint pictures or use yarn and popsicle sticks to make God’s eyes. The project I remember most was a giant papier-mâché head. Its sky-blue face sported pronounced cheekbones and ears shaped by strategically placed egg cartons. I vividly recall soaking the newspaper pieces and wrapping them into a recognizable, if goofy, head. I gave it personality, excited eyes and a big, red grin. And while I’m no Van Gogh, I was pretty damn proud of it. I still am.
But I recently heard something that bothers me. The Albuquerque-based nonprofit Art in the School says many New Mexico elementary schools can only afford to have an art teacher on staff every other year. That means thousands of schoolchildren here miss opportunities like I had—to create, learn about art and truly be a kid. Seems to me that art education should be a basic right of every child.
Art in the School has been working since 1985 to ensure that no children are starved of the benefits of art instruction. The group trains parent and grandparent volunteers to teach lessons in their child’s elementary and middle schools that don’t have art teachers. The volunteers guide students through a fun, creative project at least four times a year.
Art in the School board member and former teacher Lezlie Schreiber says the lessons teach culture as well as art.
“We’ve covered Rajput paintings from India, Australian aboriginal art, Claude Monet and Impressionism. We’ve taught New Mexico arts like tinwork, Navajo weaving, pottery and architectural things like bridges and castles that they’ve never seen before,” she says.
Art in the School also shows teachers how to use art in their lesson plans and holds an afterschool program at several Title I schools. But this year, Schreiber says money is so tight the afterschool program might not happen. So they’re doing something about it.
“Art in Motion,” an open house on Dec. 14 from 7:30 to 10pm at Maple Street Dance Space (3215 Central NE) in Nob Hill will raise money for Art in the School’s afterschool activities. For a suggested donation of $10 to $15, you’ll immerse yourself in artistic awesomeness while helping children right here in our city.
As you enter, you’ll discover incredible works for sale donated by local artisans like ceramic artist Cate Clark, watercolorist Woody Duncan and pastel artist Denali Brooke. Prices range from $25 to $250, and all proceeds go to Art in the School. You can also buy note cards featuring art created by children in the program.
Head to the next room for moving performances by local dance groups. Ballet Afrique kicks off the entertainment with a soul-stirring combo of ballet and African dance moves. Oxygen Contemporary Dance Company will showcase the lyrical choreography of Loren Fletcher, and improv group Ecotone will constantly surprise as they dance, speak and make music “on the fly.”
The bands Waylaid and Double Danger will groove the crowd with soulful revelations. And, of course, there will be food. Scarf down savory key lime tartlets, gingerbread biscotti and hot cider while you mingle.
As you indulge in this culinary and artistic smorgasbord, you’re helping Albuquerque’s next generation learn to create and appreciate art as a form of individual and cultural expression in our world.