DAWSON - More than 130 art students representing six area high schools had the opportunity to come together Tuesday in Dawson to share cultural experiences and explore different types of art forms.
The Peace of Art Day was the first one of its kind for the six school districts who partnered for the event and pooled funding together as part of the Yellow Medicine Integration Collaboration.
"All the schools put money into our budgets so we could have this day together," said Robin Henderson, Yellow Medicine Integration Collaboration coordinator. "It's been absolutely awesome. I give a lot of credit to the art teachers. They really wanted to do this and they made it happen."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Yellow Medicine East student River Jensvold carved out a design before adding ink to his linoleum printing project Tuesday while at the first-ever Peace of Art Day in Dawson.
Ten local artists were asked to give demonstrations to the students, who were from Dawson-Boyd, Lakeview, Canby, Lincoln HI, Minneota and Yellow Medicine East. Each student chose four of the 10 workshops to attend.
"I've been dreaming about this for about three or four years," Dawson-Boyd art teacher Cindy Demers said. "Things like this, you have to mull over for awhile. Now, I'm so excited I can hardly stand it. To get that many artists together, it's pretty cool."
One of the best parts, Demers said, is that art is a universal language.
"You don't have to speak French to appreciate a French painting," she said.
Students could paint on buffalo hides with artist Fern Cloud or make Lakota horse sticks with artist John Sterner, who also gave a keynote presentation earlier in the day.
"Kids really seem to like making the horse sticks," Sterner said. "The best part is that they're all so different."
Lincoln HI student Brian Rybinski painted his horse in Vikings purple and yellow.
"It's a good experience," he said.
Cloud pointed out that it would take about three months to paint a large buffalo hide.
Each student in Cloud's workshop painted on and took home a small, circular buffalo hide. Plus, the students were allowed to add something to the much bigger school-designated hide.
"It's neat to be able to come and do cool stuff like this," LH sophomore Hannah Jerzak said.
While some students preferred the watercolor painting with artist Jill Blom, others enjoyed making paper flowers with artist Moriah Demers.
"So far, it's going really well," said Scott Hanson, art teacher from Minneota and Lincoln HI. "I've only heard positive things, so that's a good sign."
Dawson-Boyd junior Allen Wagner liked doing linoleum printing with artist Brad Hall the best.
"It's pretty cool," Wagner said. "I think I might want to get one of these."
Wagner found there were several steps in the process.
"First, we pretty much carve out a design that we want on the linoleum," he said. "Then, you prepare it by smoothing the ink out for a couple of minutes."
The ink takes 24 hours to dry, Hall said, so students placed their creations inside envelopes.
"My kids are having a blast," Canby art teacher Jeshsalem Salisbury said. "I think all the projects are really interesting. I think the fact that the kids get to take projects home really helps. Instead of just having a demonstration, they get to do it themselves."
A number of students got creative working with porcelain tiles and alcohol ink with Katie Lewandowski, Yellow Medicine East elementary art teacher. After demonstrating different ways of getting the ink onto the tiles and how the ink spreads, Lewandowski let the students experiment.
"I'm going to let you explore," she said. "That's what it's all about."
Lakeview sophomore Heidi Schmidt said she enjoyed the hands-on experience.
"I liked doing the tiles the best," Schmidt said. "It's fun because you can spin and mix all the different colored inks. I also did watercolor. That was really fun."
Artist Dorothy Wiese offered a workshop on incised tiles. Artist Keiko Biggs showed students how to make various origami figures. And YME teachers Ben Lecy and Dean Baldry demonstrated how to make dreamcatchers.
"I enjoyed making it," said Takata Bauman-Rzaszutak, Lincoln HI student. "It's in my blood. The hardest part was getting the wrap to stay tight. It does not want to stay tight at all."
Hanson said he didn't hesitate to advocate for the Peace of Art Day. In fact, he brought 32 students from Minneota and 20 from LH.
"I like the interaction with kids getting to meet other kids from other schools, whether it be a different culture or not," he said. "It's just about meeting different people and getting other ideas."
Also on display in the Dawson-Boyd gymnasium was the large, colorful mural created by the art students at each school. The affiliated art teachers spent two staff days planning the mural and art day.
"In January, we picked a theme and everybody took a different culture," Henderson said. "The only parameters were that it was to be warm colors on one side and cool colors on the other."
YME chose to do American Indian cultures.
"We had a number of students who worked on the mural, like all the other schools did," Baldry said. "All of them are based off the motto: Peace of Art. So we came up with the schemes of using the Native American symbols that represent peace."
Baldry pointed out the peacepipe, the medicine wheel and the buffalo skull in addition to the words on YME's 4-by-6 foot panel.
"The words that you see mean 'we're all one people,'" he said. "That's what we were kind of trying to do there."
The other side of the panel displayed American Indian words that mean peace.
"We had some super kids working on it," Baldry said. "It turned out great. I'm really proud of them. I think they're pretty proud of what they did, too."
Salisbury said that her students had never really had to work collaboratively on a project before, but that they did really well.
"The kids put a lot of effort into the mural," she said. "And they've been enjoying themselves (Tuesday). There are a lot of projects they want me to incorporate into the classroom now. That's fun."
Each school will get a chance to keep the mural for a certain amount of time.
"It's interesting to interpret it when it all gets put together," Hanson said. "For the students to have ownership with these other people is a cool thing."