Art classes abound at community center

Alisha Wyman

African mud cloths, Japanese story fans and Australian Aboriginal paintings are a few projects in store for kids who sign up for multicultural art classes this summer.

Beth Hemmila, an artist, former assistant museum curator and credentialed teacher will teach two series for separate age groups at the Truckee Community Center through the Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District.

“I have an interest in ancient cultures and helping kids explore it on a more basic level,” Hemmila said. “I just felt like there wasn’t an offering outside of school for that kind of exploration.”

“Story and Art” is a class for children grades one to three. Hemmila will read and show them illustrated books from Hispanic, Japanese, Native American and ancient Mayan cultures.

Kids will compare those cultures to their own. Then they will create a craft, like totem poles or pop-up dioramas of Mayan ruins, using their own interpretation, Hemmila said.

“I want them to be able to connect a story to the idea of creating artwork,” she said. “Artwork reinforces everything they learned from the illustrated book.”

She will present a new culture every day through books like “Abuela and En mi Familia,” a Hispanic book, or “Raven,” a Native American story.

The class runs July 27 through Aug. 1 and contains four sessions once a week from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

The second course, geared for kids fourth grade and up, contains two sessions, each four days long. The class, called “World Arts and Crafts,” begins July with the first session and runs 9 a.m. to noon.

Hemmila will present the fundamentals of design using art from ancient cultures. By creating Australian aboriginal maps, which are paintings made of numerous small dots, or bags that Native Americans used for food called “pafleche,” kids can easily learn how to use color, shape, pattern and texture.

“Kids have a good time because it’s accessible to them,” Hemmila said.

So far, approximately 10 children have registered. Hemmila hopes to take 15 to 20 in each age group.

After having finished her teaching credential in art at San Diego State University, Hemmila used her new skills as an arts and crafts instructor for an after school program at the Kid’s Corner in Glenshire.

But this is not her first experience working with kids. During her time as an assistant curator at the Detroit Institute of Art, she put on an exhibition for children called “Animals in Ancient Art.” She explored what animals, for example a fish, symbolized in different ancient cultures. Fish represented life and abundance in ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek cultures because of its importance as a food source.

Her experience with the exhibition inspired her to acquire a teaching credential.

“I really enjoyed working for students at the museum,” Hemmila said. “I wanted to spend more time with them.” It was a good escape the usual administrative work she often did there.

Hemmila looks forward to showing students in the Truckee area the world of ancient art with her art classes this summer. They will learn in a structured environment without the pressure of getting a good grade, she said. “This is more about a leisure activity that they can really learn something through.”

For more information call 530-582-7720.

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