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home : education : schools May 3, 2016

4/1/2014 12:55:00 PM
Sisters art educator works in Northern Marianas
Annie Painter, center, with teachers and students from her arts residency in the Northern Marianas. photo provided
+ click to enlarge
Annie Painter, center, with teachers and students from her arts residency in the Northern Marianas. photo provided

Paper masks were among the studentsí creations. photo provided
+ click to enlarge
Paper masks were among the studentsí creations. photo provided

Annie Painter has been teaching art - and teaching teachers to teach art - for many years. She's worked in that field right here in Sisters. But recently she took her paint kit far away - for a two-week residency on Rota, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas.

"The old girls' network is responsible for this remarkable experience," Painter said.

Lynne Michael, library media specialist at Sinapalo Elementary School on Rota, saw Painter's teaching-videos ( shot by Annie's college friend, San Diego graphics teacher Mona Sturges. Mona and Lynne are sisters. Lynne wanted what she saw in the videos for the staff and children on Rota.

Through Lynne Michael's leadership and a National Endowment for the Arts grant from the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs on Saipan, Painter, an arts educator and former school principal, spent two weeks in March in this tropical paradise with 180 young artists, K-6, and their teachers. Sister Mona was part of the team working on a video documentary of the project.

Each class visited Annie twice over seven days in a vacant classroom on which a sign had been posted before she arrived: "Annie Painter's Art Institute." Within three days, the children had produced nearly 1,000 carefully hand-painted papers by color mixing just three tempera paints - cyan (turquoise), magenta and yellow. Solids, patterns and the popular textured "wads" were turned into cut paper creations designed to teach art elements and principles to each grade level in child-friendly ways, using Annie's Art Institute teaching methods.

Kindergarten collages became "instant designer butterflies," Painter said. "First-graders planted imaginary seeds that grew nearly as big as the children - and every bit as unique. Yet each flower had all the 'real' plant parts."

In another nod to integrating science, second-graders made 3-D bugs with authentic insect-parts including all six legs coming from the thorax.

Third-graders tested Painter's paint chips (dry paint released from a piece of paper with a wet brush) as they designed stuffed fish. Masks with "mood and attitude" emerged in the fourth- and fifth-grade session. Another fourth-grade made a project called Boisterous Birds, requiring an amusing visual expression of a written definition for "boisterous." Sixth-graders created dazzling double leaf panels using negative space and positive shape on which were camouflaged insects - again with all the "real" bug parts.

On Painter's last day, the creations were installed throughout the school: climbing up walls, flying over the ceiling, sitting on windowsills, growing in the

computer lab.

Two teacher workshops were included in which teachers themselves were the artists as well as leaders learning ways to sustain the program in the new room now dedicated to art and science.

What's next? Last week, Annie and Lynne talked about a Skype workshop in August with the staff, and ongoing support from Painter for teachers as they gain confidence with the program.

"What did I take away?" Painter mused. "Great new friends, one more chance to bring the joys and benefits of the arts to children and teachers on the other side of the world: One more affirmation that we are all very much more alike than we are different."

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