1. Art Role Models Program Takes Shape
    December 20, 2012 by Walden3

    ARM volunteer Jed Dunkerley leads a group of students in a lesson about self-portraits

    Ever since Walden 3 started its Art Role Models program (ARM), Tuesday afternoons at the Denny School of Art have been bustling with activity. A partnership with Arts Corps, ARM’s goal has been manifest with inspiring interaction between Seattle’s artist community and kids from south end neighborhoods. Program director Lucinda Harper explains: “We recognized that a lot of artists in our community didn’t have much exposure to kids, and a lot of local kids didn’t have exposure to artists, so the mission is actually twofold- the kids learn from the artists, and vice versa.”
    Painter/sculptor Whiting Tennis, painter Robert Hardgrave, and conceptual artist AmyEllen Trefsger (aka flatchestedmama) were all in the studio last week with small groups of students from Aki Kurose Middle School, engaged in various assignments and projects. Trefsger had a sassy young man sorting clothing scraps by color for use in upholstering a basketball hoop while Hardgrave was using a projector and guiding a pair of 5th graders as they reassembled shapes to be traced onto a large canvas.
    “It’s kind of a ‘Big Brothers, Big Sisters’ concept, but focused on developing kids’ creative expression,” said Tennis, engaged in a plywood sculpture with Amari Williams, a spunky 13-year-old who couldn’t stop sanding the edges of what appeared to be an orca’s back.
    “This is, like, hella complicated!” she exclaimed, as Tennis slathered on some wood glue. “Let’s get these pieces to line up!” she propositioned the 6’7” sculptor, with the urgency of a feisty art director. “Another genius idea, young structuralist” quipped Tennis, with a wry smile, and aside to me, “She’s working me!”
    At the beginning of the program, some of the artists, none of them parents themselves, were admittedly nervous. Harper, a 10-year veteran of Seattle Public Schools offered them some basic guidance and ran interference, when necessary.
    “The desire is there on both sides,” she posited, “a lot of these kids aren’t shy about their creativity- they just needed some focused outlets outside of their classrooms, many of which were suffering from cuts in their elementary and middle school arts programs. And the artists are generally confident in sharing their crafts, so, minus a little guidance in cultural competency and behavioral psychology, the synergy has been astounding.”
    ARM’s first year will bear fruit with each of the student artists earning a chance at exhibiting their skills in the spring Young Makers Society show in the Dearborn Gallery. So far, 17 artists have volunteered their time to be role models, and over 70 students have signed up for single sessions. Next year, the plan is to expand to 2 days a week and offer apprenticeships between specific artists and students that show interest.
    “ The students choose the artists,” says Harper, “The idea is to have the artists show their portfolios and get the kids inspired.”
    “ I haven’t felt this kind of pressure since I applied for my MFA,” Hardgrave joked , “ I hope I get picked!”