Bristlecone Art spotlight: Traveling the world through art at Cactus Valley Elementary School |

Bristlecone Art spotlight: Traveling the world through art at Cactus Valley Elementary School

Pearly Spevere, the art teacher at Cactus Valley Elementary School in Silt, explains textiles to her students as she hands out recycled material to work on.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent

Sit down. Close your eyes. And imagine traveling to a foreign country you have never been to. 

What is it like?

It’s hard to say, unless someone can help guide you.

This is an exercise Pearly Spevere, the art teacher at Cactus Valley Elementary School, uses to teach her students about art. 

“It helps inspire them to be creative,” she said. 

One student adding the final squares for his artwork.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent

Each month the Post Independent features a student spotlight in Garfield County, chosen and supported by the nonprofit Bristlecone Art Collaborative.

Spevere has a big map on the wall of her classroom so she can show the students where different art concepts have come from and how far they’ve traveled. 

“I tell the kids, we are going to travel. Close your eyes and we are going to go to Italy,” Spevere said. 

Then, she will show them a short clip or slide show to help them envision that foreign place, and teaches them the work inspired by those places.

She’ll teach them about the artists there and have them ask questions. She gives them quotes from the artist for the students to relate to. Sometimes with them them laughing at their mistakes to remind the students that art is subjective and everyone starts somewhere.

The lesson these past couple of weeks focused on quilting and textiles. 

Textiles came from parts of Africa and the concept lived on through Gee’s Bend quilt in Alabama after the slave trade.  

Spevere watched the students start their project while offering ideas and help.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent

“They made the textiles based on their past, their history and their culture,” she said.

She then encouraged the students to make their own textiles, or quilts with recycled materials. Spevere also encourages the use of recycled materials to make art. Just last week, she taught her students how to make paintbrushes with recycled plastics. 

This helps teach them that art doesn’t have to be expensive, and they don’t need the nicest materials or instruments to make art.

While the students created their textiles, Spevere reminded them of the lesson she taught them on quilting that involved more storytelling.

“Faith Ringgold is an African American who made quilts, big quilts that are now in museums,” Spevere said.

Ringgold used her quilts to tell stories about herself, her culture and anything else she wanted to share with others. 

Quilts offer a lot of creative avenues for the students. They can help them tell stories or encourage them to try something abstract and new, she said. 

“That’s what quilting is, it’s creating art, making a collage with different kinds of material or fabric or textile,” she said. “So you just create what you want. It’s an abstract.”

She said abstract art is just being creative.

“No particular rule about it,” Spevere said. “It’s just what you think. It’s like putting a puzzle together.”

The students pick out their favorite patterns to work with.
Cassandra Ballard/ Post Independent

When asked what story their ideal quilt would tell, the students all had creative and unique ideas. 

Some wanted to remember their big moments in their life, like Allicyn Rosenburg who wanted to tell the story of being adopted by her cousins.

“I would have my adoption day,” Rosenburg said. “I would show the judge’s table, and me and my little sister sitting down in the office. There would be my mom, my dad and the rest of my family.”

Other students wanted to share things they love, like Olivia Morris who wanted to show her dog named Rosie, and Chase Hedburg who wanted to depict paddle boarding on the Colorado River. 

Some of the children wanted to show things that make them happy, like Max Santacruz who said he would put his birthday on his quilt, or  Willow Roberts who said she would tell the story of her farmhouse with her sheep and cows. 

Rowen Webb brainstormed for a second and chose his favorite memory. 

Pearly Spevere teaches the students about picture quilts and shows some examples
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent

“When my dad got bald,” Webb said, referring to a time his dad decided to shave his head.

And since the project doesn’t require a story, Levi Barth decided he wanted to do something abstract. 

Once many of the works of art are finished in any class, Spevere makes sure to display the art throughout the school so the children can enjoy each other’s art and also get to see their work on exhibit. 

Some students opt out because they are so excited to share the art with their families, but the school halls are always available for new art from the hardworking students. 

Bristlecone Arts Collaborative is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching art education. Help them continue their programming like this Student Spotlight by donating on their website at, linking your City Market card (link on their website), and liking them on Facebook at BristleconeArtsCollaborative.

The students show off their art from the day
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent

If you know a young artist who deserves to be in the Spotlight, contact Lindsay Latva at

Post Independent reporter Cassandra Ballard can be reached at or 970-384-9131.

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