John GardnerPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

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January 17, 2008
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Art Reach Program helps kids see the big picture

GLENWOOD SPRINGS - Lynne Cassidy's fifth-grade art class from Glenwood Springs Elementary School crowded around a laptop computer positioned in the corner of the Colorado Mountain College's downtown art gallery Thursday morning.The kids in the back stood tall on their toes; their heads tipped back and their eyes focused on the computer screen. The shorter kids in front, faces locked in expressions of serious thought.

Local artist Chris Erickson presented pieces of his art to the kids and spoke to them about the importance art has in a community, and the hard work involved."I started about your age. I always had a desire to become an artist," Erickson told the students. "Anything you want to be great at, you have to be passionate about. I wanted to be a great artist, so I spent a lot of time drawing and painting."The kids' focused expressions illustrated their momentary passion of art. Some more than others, but for that moment, they were all about the art."How long did it take you to do that painting," one student asked Erickson, pointing to a painting on the wall."That one took about seven hours," Erickson responded. "But it really depends. One of the smaller paintings may take 20 hours."

The crowd of 10 -year-olds responded with oohs and awes. Their little bodies shuffled and shifted as their excitement loosened the air of seriousness.Art is playful.The morning trip was the second time in two weeks that Erickson has spoken to elementary students about art. It's a program Cassidy started, the Art Reach Program, in connection with CMC Center for Excellence in the Arts. "This lets the kids see that art isn't just a part of the gallery, but it's a valuable part of the community," Cassidy said. "And the kids were really excited for this."Their excitement was apparent as the students escaped the cold, early morning air outside. They shed their coats and mittens in the lobby and hysterically shuffled into the gallery. All pointed out their favorite painting to one another and questions began to arise.

"Why do you paint trees," a student asked Erickson."Everyone paints trees," he answered back. "I just try to paint them differently. It's my way of expressing myself."Erickson explained how his paintings all stemmed from different experiences he's had in life. His message for them, as young artists, was to embrace their observant nature and paint what they see."You guys, at your age, you are so observant," Erickson said. "When you draw a tree, don't just draw the tree, but draw what's within the tree."And as artists, they took a moment to interpret that piece of advice.

The real test comes tonight, when the students are at home. Some will think about drawing and some will draw. Inspired by an artist in the community. That's the point of Cassidy's program."I remember every art teacher I've ever had," Erickson said. "When someone has something they can teach you, take notice. There's a lot you can learn from people."And that's art.Contact John Gardner: 384-9114jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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The Post Independent Updated Jan 18, 2008 01:11AM Published Jan 17, 2008 02:00AM Copyright 2008 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.