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A cavalcade of student artwork adorned the walls of Centennial Hall on the Fairgrounds in California.
The Youth Art Show at the Moniteau County Fair was music to Donna Raymond’s eyes.
“God has given each of us talents to be shared and used to benefit other people,” said Mrs. Raymond, art teacher at St. Andrew School in Tipton. “Creating art is one way we can bring joy to ourselves and others.”
Sixty-seven of her students in kindergarten through eighth grade had their work displayed in the Art Show.
Six won ribbons this year, “but in my eyes they are all winners because I know the work and pride they put into their projects,” said Mrs. Raymond.
At the end of this past school year, her second at St. Andrew, she encouraged all of her students to submit one of their art projects for the County Fair.
She was pleased at their eagerness to do so.
“I see many students at St. Andrew School blossom when they use their talent to create a piece of art,” she said. “My wish for the students is that they recognize the gift of artistic talent given to them by God and that they will continue to use their talent to spread joy throughout their life.”
She believes it’s important for schools to encourage students to learn art and to give them an outlet for their creative abilities.
“Many students have hidden artistic talent that might otherwise go undeveloped,” she stated.
Art class also provides students a license to “be themselves” and have fun while creating and learning about the different mediums and aspects of the fine arts.
Most students look forward to art. Many say it is their favorite class.
“Research has shown that brain function is enhanced through art,” Mrs. Raymond noted. “Even viewing art can lift one’s spirit and give a feeling of wellbeing.”
Furthermore, creating art helps students develop fine motor skills as well as their critical thinking and decision-making abilities.
“It is also rewarding to the students when they complete a project and accomplish a goal,” she said.
Mrs. Raymond talked about how art helps reinforce students’ understanding of other subjects at school.
“I believe art enhances the students’ knowledge of all other subjects,” she stated. “Most art projects begin with a short lesson or story about the subject of the project.”
For example, “math is definitely utilized in art — from measuring with a ruler to determining the size, shape, perspective, arrangement, balance and other aspects of the artwork,” she said.
Likewise, history plays a part in art, through learning about art movements and the artists throughout history.
Social studies is bolstered by learning about the art of other cultures, as well as the students’ own.
Science studies benefit from learning about animals and nature through art.
Mrs. Raymond also often includes lessons about religion, faith and values.
“Many projects give me the opportunity to teach about giving, caring for others and gratitude for what we have,” she said.
For one project last year, she told each student to draw a large heart, divide it into sections and write in each section some of the things that were near and dear to their own heart.
“It was encouraging to see that all of the students included a cross, and most of them were centered in the heart,” she said.
During religious holidays, she guides students in creating art that reflects the true meaning of what they’re celebrating.
“I am so grateful that I teach at St. Andrew School, where we can express our religious beliefs in art,” she said.
Art of persuasion
Mrs. Raymond is convinced that growing in appreciation for the arts is a way for students to become more well-rounded individuals.
“When students learn about a variety of artists and critique artwork, they reflect on feelings and the feelings of the artists and the observer,” she said.
In that way, they become more in-tune to others’ and their own feelings.
Mrs. Raymond likes including lessons that teach about other cultures’ lifestyles and artistic stylings.
“The students enjoy creating and replicating art from other countries and appreciate our differences through art,” she said.
She noted that art is vast and that the beauty of any given artwork can be experienced differently for every observer.
“Realizing this gives the students an appreciation for the expression of someone else’s mind,” she said.
On the move
Students returning to St. Andrew School this fall will find a new home for their art classes.
“It will be a larger room with desks that will be easier for the students to work from,” said Mrs. Raymond.
Parishioner Evan Garber built a whole wall of shelving to store art supplies, making them more accessible for projects throughout the school year.
“The students will be surprised with our new room, and I know they will appreciate all that it has to offer for their creative minds,” said Mrs. Raymond.
As the new school year gets under way, she anticipates the creation of more excellent artwork and the revealing of more previously hidden talents in her students.
She plans to challenge them with more projects that emphasize the elements of art.
She intends to build on the principles of art to her work with the upper grades in order to progress and prepare the students for high school art class.
“I will also be introducing more farm projects in the hope of having more entries for the County Fair in the Best of Farm category,” she said. “We will store the projects all year long at the school so the students can again choose the art to submit.”
Mrs. Raymond said she feels blessed to have a pastor, administration and fellow faculty members who are very supportive of the school’s art program.
She recognizes God at work in her classroom through the students’ attitudes toward their classmates and in the way they encourage and compliment each other on their work.
“It is heartwarming to watch the students at St. Andrew respect each other and reflect Christ to one another,” she said.
She derives genuine satisfaction from the happiness on students’ faces when they create works of art.
“It’s great to see their excitement at trying different mediums and beginning new projects,” she said. “I always say I have the best job on the planet!”