Earth Without Art is “eh” – Boulder Creek Elementary’s Art Masterpiece Program

Partial proceeds from the Santa Cruz Mountain Art, Wine, and Music Festival, September 5 and 6, 2015 at Garrahan Park in Boulder Creek support the BCE Art Masterpiece program. Proceeds also support San Lorenzo Valley High School’s participation in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F) Scholarship fund.

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by Kili Crandall

The Art Masterpiece program at Boulder Creek Elementary School is not just about creating art… it’s about “touching the lives of the Art Masters over the past few centuries…” and understanding their art as well as what their influences were.

The program has evolved over the past two decades since its implementation in the mid-1990s with Andrea Burgon at its helm.  Mrs. Burgon sought to “bring the Art Masters to the San Lorenzo Valley” so that her four children and their classmates could benefit from the amazing talent in our community.  “We have so many incredible artists here, living in this beautiful valley, who want to inspire our youth, let’s provide them with an opportunity.”

The program showcases a variety of  “art by The Masters” for each grade level, following a set schedule monthly, so that, ideally, by the end of fifth grade students will have been influenced by not only the Renaissance Art of Brueghel and the Impressionist Art of Cassatt, Renoir and Monet, but also the Surrealism of Miro and Chagall, the passion of Rivera and Kahlo, the Pop Art of Warhol and Thiebaud, even the amazing hanging mobile sculpture by Alexander Calder, which provides a fun way to learn about movement powered only by natural elements.

I have known Andrea since I moved to SLV, twenty years ago.  I didn’t know anything about the program though, until my oldest son Max, now 15 and a sophomore at SLVHS, started kindergarten at BCE.  Kathy Ritchie was heading the AM program then and asked me to “get on board” and volunteer in the kindergarten class.  I never looked back!  I took over running the program a few years ago and I’m going to stay as long as they’ll have me!

All the BCE teachers participate.  They even do the projects with their class, if they want to, although it’s not required… but they get inspired along with the students.

We begin getting our volunteers at Open House, which is during the first few weeks after school starts.  I hold and orientation (about two hours) for the volunteers to fill them in on our program and update them with new artists we might have added in.  We have at least one volunteer for each classroom.  Usually two or three volunteers will team up for each class and then help each other out, trading off responsibilities: One teaching and one assisting one month and then switching for the next.  Most volunteers love it and come back each year for their child’s new class.

Our first art project begins in October, with our last being in May, in time for the Art Show.  One project each month, depending on the schedule and desires of the teacher and volunteer(s).  Some teachers enjoy having the AM volunteer come in twice a month, and we can certainly accommodate!

Supplies for each project are provided by the Art Masterpiece program, which is fully funded by the BCE Parent Club and past fundraisers.  We have watercolor, tempera, chalk pastels, oil pastels, clay, tissue paper, charcoal, a variety of mediums.  Our biggest expense is watercolor paper, which is mandatory for some projects.  Having good supplies is so necessary, but having enough of the good supplies is also key.  We do our best to keep supplies stocked using our $600 annual budget.  We also stress using nature and recycling.  We bring in tree branches and household items, showing the students that art doesn’t have to be expensive.

Over time though, our paint brushes get rather beat up and our paints always need refurbishing, so any extra money is put towards supplies that will endure several years of students.  We were able to purchase new packets this year for each grade and Mary Beth Curley (who has been co-coordinator for the past couple of years), graciously spent the summer refreshing and renewing all our packets for the 2015-16 school year!  So exciting!!

The teachers still present a variety of art projects in their classrooms and BCE budgets for Spectre Arts in most classes as well.  Mountain Arts also has an after school art class, for a fee, that allows ten or so students, once a week for a month, to do a themed project.

My boys (now 12 and 15) always enjoyed Art Masterpiece throughout their years at BCE.  I know they miss it in the older grades!  It really has been very inspiring to so many students because they recognize “art.”  They know the “masters.”  They understand the types of art through the centuries and they are able to see art around them.  It gives so many children joy because, although they may not be good at sports or math…. art is subjective and completely their own interpretation, so there is no standard of what is right or wrong or beautiful.  It is all up to them, it empowers them.

I hope to keep this program going forever.  When will there be a time when it is not important?  Art has and will always be an important part of life.  I can’t imagine BCE without it.  Of course, if we come up against an issue of no funding, I’m not sure what we will do.  Probably look to the students to pay for the opportunity to create art.  That would be very unfortunate, if it came to that.  I know they have already cut the band program back so that just fifth graders have the opportunity to learn an instrument. It used to be fourth and fifth grades. Maybe we will be forced to cut the Art Masterpiece program to only three artists/projects a year or possibly just upper grades…  I cannot imagine.  As we all know – “earth without art is eh”.  That really says it all!

As published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin.

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