Art Reach Picture Program to begin in October
Nedra Fisher thinks it’s never too early to talk about art.
Art Reach is preparing the annual Picture Program, a program in which volunteers raging from college students to grand-parents present art to children.
Fisher, who founded the program, said the main idea is bringing the museum to the classroom and showing them the great arts.
“There’s so many children in our area who will never have the opportunity to visit a museum,” said Fisher. “The children in Mount Pleasant may, because sometimes the teachers even try to get a bus together and take them down to the DIA.”
She added that other elementary schools in mid-Michigan might not be able to visit a museum as children.
“These kids are just as smart, just as bright, will enjoy it and appreciate it just as much,” said Fisher.
Kathy Hill, Art Reach’s Executive Director, said the program is on-going in 30 elementary schools in the Isabella, Clare, Gratiot and Gladwin counties.
About 9,000 elementary school students are benefiting from the program.
Before the program made its debut in 1984, Fisher said they put together a number of sets consisting of 16 pictures.
Over the years they have expanded the sets and added 23 special collections.
Today they have over 30 sets, each one consisting of 18 pictures, said Fisher. Each special collection has a theme, such as African-American art, Native American art, women’s art or cave art.
From October to May, the volunteers (who are called “docents”) will visit a classroom once a month with two pieces from an assigned set, said Fisher.
They will talk for 15-30 minutes about the artists, their style and whatever other information that might be age-appropriate for the grade level which is from kindergarten up to sixth grade.
Fisher said they instruct the docents to ask the children questions, such as, how the painting makes them feel or how they can relate to it. They can also play small games like “Find the Things.”
Chelsy Billips, St. Johns senior and a docent from last year, said, “They (the children) participated and it was more of a conversation between me and the students.”
Art Reach member Marcia Brooks, who is recruiting volunteers for the third time, said Art Reach provides the docents folders containing information about each art piece so they don’t have to do any research unless they want to.
Assistant Professor Roy Reynolds is helping with the recruitment and stood by as Brooks gave his art education students a presentation about the program.
“It’s a great experience for our pre-service teachers,” said Reynolds. “It’s a great way to be in front of a group of students, it’s a great experience to learn how to talk about art.”
Reynolds said people who aren’t interested in becoming teachers should still do it, because it’s giving back to the community.
“It is (also) learning how to interact with teachers and other professionals,” he added. “So you’re building your communication skills, you’re building your resume, your reliability.”
Fisher said they’re still looking for volunteers and that they’re having training sessions on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 10 a.m. and Thursday, Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. at Art Reach Center, 111 E. Broadway St.
If someone applies late or cannot make any of the sessions, they can call (989) 772 2570 and set up a private training session at Art Reach Center.
Mount Pleasant senior Jamie Smith, who is planning on participating in the program, said, “It’s actually exciting to know you’re the person that’s bringing art history (to them).”
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