Arts For the Schools | Artists in Residence, you are appreciated
Special to the Sun
Arts For the Schools’ two primary programs are OnSTAGE and Artist in Residence.
Through OnSTAGE, AFTS strives to provide our community with exceptional live performance art. Artist in Residence sponsors three professional artists who provide art instruction to third through fifth-grade students in the Tahoe-Truckee and Incline school districts. Artist in Residence is funded by Measure A and offered to students at no charge.
The Artists in Residence work with teachers to ensure California Visual Arts Key Content Standards are fulfilled with each project.
Our three current talented Artists in Residence are Nancy Lopez, Cathee vanRossem-St. Claire and Anke Hass. They each tirelessly devote themselves to this program. These artists introduce children to a variety of art mediums, allowing them to explore their own creativity. Each year, more than 850 students benefit.
Arts For the Schools wanted to take the time to appreciate our amazing teachers and give them a huge “thank you” for their continued dedication to this important program. Without Cathee, Nancy and Anke there would be over 850 students missing out on the opportunity to learn, discover and create art each year.
Cathee vanRossem-St. Claire
Q: What has been your greatest reward as a teacher?
A: The children. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to be present with them, to stretch our brains together, to learn how to communicate with one another, to explore how to look, how to listen, how to feel, how to experience the world in new ways — to create a safe space together. Here we can consider what it means to be human, to be okay with ourselves as we are, to learn about the relationship between fragility and caring and being aware. This is what I love about teaching. The students and I are not alone in the process. We do it together. We support each other. We find the courage to access an elusive thing called genius. In this quiet space it’s possible to create something profoundly delicate and beautiful.
Q: What have students taught you?
A: Compassion. Patience. Humility. There are times they have more wisdom than I do about the very things I teach. They show me how important it is to listen to them, to show them respect, to set clear and fair boundaries and to stick to them. They teach me that the quality of our relationship is directly related to how well they are able to absorb what I’m trying to share. They teach me to stay awake, to be totally present, to give them the same kind energy I’d like to receive in return.
Q: What lesson do you hope your students learn?
A: To have the courage to take the apostrophe “t” out of “I can’t” and turn it into “I can.” To have the courage to keep going, even when things seem impossibly tough. To have the courage to turn their lives into works of art.
Q: How many years have you been teaching art to children?
A: Collaborative strategies have played an essential role in my artwork and teaching for the past 14 years with Arts For the Schools.
Q: What do you focus on when structuring your art classes?
A: My art and teaching structure feature special community collaborations with an emphasis on partnerships and the environment. An example of my student’s artwork includes a wildlife historical signage project with Sierra Watershed Educational Partnership.
I collaborated with three Glenshire Elementary fifth-grade classes along with Sierra Watershed Educational Partnerships facilitators to create landscapes and wildlife paintings to be displayed on interruptive signs at Squaw Valley. The students learned about the local flora and fauna through a class workshop with on site watershed lessons, and designed and painted original artwork of our Sierra Nevada.
Q: What are some past student projects that you directed?
A: Some of the past student art projects include: Batik Hero Quilts that toured from the California State Capital to the Russell Senate Building in Washington, D.C., Totem Poles located at the Glenshire pond trail, and an environmental tile mural at Kings Beach Elementary School. I serve as the Founder and Artistic Director of Trails & Vistas.
Q: What do you think is the most important reason to offer Artists in Residence?
A: The most important reason to have art in the schools is to expose youth to the process and experience of creative expression. If there is such a thing as illiteracy in working with our hands, our culture suffers it. Whoever enters the roam of creative expression — I am not even talking about self-expression — but tried to answer a prompting question, such as, “Express appreciation for golfing, for your mother or skiing through painting and drawing or the pain that comes with loosing someone” experiences these questions:
May I do whatever I want? Will I have the talent and the means to do this? Will I have an idea? Will my idea be better than another person’s idea? Do I know enough about the subject? How will it be received? Will people like it? Will people laugh? Will I be disappointed? Will I embarrass myself? Will I have spent too much time on it?
In our culture there is little space for doing something for the appreciation of it or deliberately devoting time to something that has no productive purpose. Even the sports activities might open doors for scholarships or serves to keep the body healthy. Everything is the means to an end. Art in the schools is an exposure to doing something with our hands, something that is personally relevant and meaningful, which is valuable for our experience as humans.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge as an artist and a teacher?
A: Traveling from Tahoe City to Kingvale to Truckee into school settings without space for art or sometimes even without sinks in the classrooms is very hard. The foldable desk chair works for taking notes during lectures but doesn’t work for painting and drawing. I wished schools had a place for painting and drawing.
Q: If you could sum up what you bring, as an artist, to students in a few of sentences, what would you say?
A: In our attempt to make sure our children have high self esteem so they will be productive in their future, we overlook the need for the struggles that lead to the confidence we are aiming for. When I enter the class rooms I always emphasize that artists have to have to have the sense of courage. They need to have the forte, fortitude or strength to do it and the endurance to hang in there when it gets tough.
By guiding students through the process of painting and drawing one picture, I am hoping they will be more equipped … It is my forte to break down complex tasks into doable steps. I like learning and practice and I hope my attitude evokes the same in my students.
From all of us at Arts for the Schools and this amazing community, thank you Nancy, Cathee and Anke. You are priceless treasures!
Bethany Lund is a member of Arts for the Schools.