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Empowering youth (photos)
Art collaboration expands cultural awareness
Friday, Mar. 30, 2012
By Betsy Fradd, WSU Extension
PUYALLUP, Wash. - Colorful mosaics, intricate Chinese ink and scroll designs and inventive mask making are enriching the lives of thousands of youth throughout Washington.
"Art is empowering,” said 12-year-old Lauren Keltgen, whose Chinese scroll hangs proudly in her room. "However you feel at that moment, you can say it through art,” said the Puyallup seventh grader, who used words including strength, independence, balance and courage on her scroll.
In a unique collaboration between Washington State University Extension 4-H, the WSU College of Liberal Arts and the Boeing Company, young people are being introduced to art from different countries, touring local art venues and getting mini lessons about cultural history.
In its fourth year, Arts for Children’s Enrichment, or the ACE project, reaches youth in King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish, Asotin, Klickitat and Spokane counties.
A National Endowment for the Arts Grant helps provide WSU instructor-led training, art supplies and curriculum guides. Local 4-H leaders produce youth-led workshops in local 4-H clubs, after-school settings and for 4-H Super Saturdays.
"Exposing youth to a variety of art projects opens up so much creativity for them,” said Kathy Craig, co-project leader of Valley 4-H in Pierce County. "They get to express themselves with hands-on activities that involve texture, color and symbolism. Kids consider what design, pattern and tools to use as they work on each piece.”
Field trips to museums, galleries, art exhibits and glass blowing studios broaden their horizons to art in its many forms. 4-H youth are also learning Australian-inspired dot and line techniques, making collages and pencil sketching.
Alexandra Files, 10, likes Chinese calligraphy best: "It was fun using the sumi brush and a soapstone stamp, and I really enjoyed reading and learning about their ancient civilization,” said the Edgewood resident.
ACE project coordinator Gail Siegel knows early art experience can open a child’s perspective in many areas.
"When students have the opportunity to create art and know its history, they often find an appreciation of different cultures and want to learn more about the local people, language and way of life,” said Siegel, who is director of WSU Performing Arts.
"The thing I like best about art is the variety,” said Keltgen. "There is no right or wrong. It gives you the freedom to do whatever you want.”