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It’s Elementary Art

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by Michelle A.L. Singer

“It’s explicit and exquisite.”

That’s how artist and art teacher Heidemarie Holmes-Heiss describes children’s art. “You can feel that it’s an amazing expression when a child picks up a pencil and draws. It’s exquisite, exciting and even sacred.” Holmes-Heiss has been teaching art for fourteen years and is currently the art teacher at both Calais and East Montpelier elementary schools. Every summer she visits family in Europe. “I go to all the art exhibits in Salzburg and Cologne but I can’t wait until September to see the kids’ fresh and original work,” she said.

For the past 10 years, she has donated one of her Art Resource Association (ARA) art show slots to her students and all the elementary students in the Washington County Supervisory Union (WCSU). This year will be no different. April 10, 2014 is the opening celebration for the 10th annual “…It’s Elementary Art” show at Montpelier’s City Center. It will showcase art from Calais, Doty, East Montpelier, Berlin and Rumney students. “I really believe in public art,” said Holmes-Heiss. “Art needs to be seen and enjoyed and not just in a gallery or special places.”

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Holmes-Heiss received her bachelor of science in education from Johnson State College. While she was learning to be a classroom teacher, she took an art class every semester “to keep my spirits up,” she said. She then earned her master’s degree in fine arts and women’s development from Vermont College. “I always accepted children’s art as valuable. They remind us that art is play on more than one level.” Holmes-Heiss is now bringing a new approach into the classroom called Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB). It’s choice-based and strives to get students away from judgment based on performance. Holmes-Heiss’ main goal is to get kids to connect to themselves as artists. She shared with me her favorite quote from Pablo Picasso, “Every child is an artist.”

She and the other art teachers of WCSU look forward to presenting the work of their students this April. Since they work so hard to inspire and cultivate art every day, their appreciation for children’s art is evident. Holmes-Heiss and her colleagues spoke highly of their students’ creativity:

Heidemarie Holmes-Heiss, Art Educator K–6, Calais and East Montpelier Elementary Schools

“Every day I am grateful to work with so many young artists, to guide their confidence and trust in self-expression and to be learning as they are.”

Jennifer Campbell, Rumney Elementary School Art Educator K–6

“I appreciate children’s art because children enjoy making marks, exploring a variety of mediums and creating. Their art is a visual example of their authentic selves, uninhibited and pure.”

Lynn Spencer, Berlin Elementary School Art Educator K–6

“I find it really exciting to work with young artists and watch how they mix paint to create unique and inspiring compositions. The color combinations will make your eyes dance. I admire their daring.”

Martha Fitch, Doty Elementary School Art Educator K–6

“Children’s artwork allows me to see the world from their point of view. It can be a snapshot of how organized and observant a child might be. Art time is important to children because it can provide time to work with tools and materials increasingly not present in other parts of the school day.”

Artist: Oliver Jon Hansen Title: "The Evolution of a Scribble" Grade: 4 School: East Montpelier Elementary
Artist: Oliver Jon Hansen
Title: “The Evolution of a Scribble”
Grade: 4
School: East Montpelier Elementary

Artist: William Alexander Rob Title: "Snowy Owl" Grade: 1 School: East Montpelier Elementary
Artist: William Alexander Rob
Title: “Snowy Owl”
Grade: 1
School: East Montpelier Elementary

Artist: Isabel Giammusso Title: "Instruments" Grade: 5 School: Calais Elementary
Artist: Isabel Giammusso
Title: “Instruments”
Grade: 5
School: Calais Elementary

Artist: Maeve McFadden Hoffert, Title: "Spirit Horse", Grade: 4, School: East Montpelier Elementary
Artist: Maeve McFadden Hoffert,
Title: “Spirit Horse”,
Grade: 4,
School: East Montpelier Elementary

Tom Brown is contributing editor of The Bridge. ..... You can contact him at tom@montpelierbridge.com