Shepherd University’s Phaze 2 Gallery is hosting an exhibit of collaborative art by students from South Jefferson Elementary School and Shepherd students and a professor through the end of July.
The collaboration was made possible through a grant awarded to Sarah Sullivan, a Shepherd alumna and the art teacher at South Jefferson. The grant allowed Sullivan to invite David Modler, Shepherd associate professor of art, to be an artist in residence at the school for one week this spring. Modler also incorporated the project into the spring curriculum and instruction class he teaches, having seven students from Shepherd travel to South Jefferson to work on the project alongside the elementary school children.
Sullivan said the project incorporates South Jefferson’s schoolwide theme this year, which is patriotism.
“We decided to take patriotic colors from the American flag and use those in a contemporary context,” Sullivan said. “The students think it’s amazing.”
About half of Sullivan’s $500 Teaching Arts Creatively grant from the Jefferson County Arts Council was used to purchase supplies for the project. The students worked with acrylic paint on various sizes of repurposed cardboard circle cutouts.
“They’ve had a lot of fun working with the cardboard, which is a different material than they’ve ever worked on before,” Sullivan said. “The circles they’re working on are in a different format than they’ve ever seen. Also the scale of the project is different than they’ve ever experienced before.”
Modler, as the guest artist, helped plan and design the project and guided its installation in the Phaze 2 Gallery. The project includes a design element that Modler often incorporates into his own work, moiré patterning, which was created as a visual interference for items like security envelopes.
“It’s really a false sense of security because if somebody wanted to get in, they’d just rip it open,” Modler said. “I use that patterning a lot and play with color just to talk about security in our own lives and how secure the things are that we think are very secure—like relationships, jobs, our country.”
Shepherd students in Modler’s class worked alongside and assisted the grade school students, which Modler pointed out gave the future educators some practical experience and might inspire them to incorporate similar strategies when they become teachers.
“They were able to sit down with small groups of kids, interact and work with them, and help them,” Modler said. “It gave the students in my class some really practical hands-on experience and I think they were just as excited as the elementary kids were. I think there was a great community atmosphere that was created.”
“I love art, it’s a passion of mine, and I know how important it is for young students to develop their expression and personal growth,” said Alexa Sharrah, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. “It’s great to be in the elementary school because it gives us field practice.”
Aleisha Iser, Hagerstown, Maryland, said she enjoyed working on the project with the kids and feels Modler provided a great opportunity.
“David has so many connections and provided us with so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have at any other school,” Iser said. “This is a lovely little school, the kids are so well behaved, and they’re doing such a good job with this project.”
“I’m used to working with kindergarteners so I’m getting a lot of experience guiding and communicating with older children,” said Ashley Fritsch, Falling Waters. “I think it’s important to have that experience before becoming an art teacher.”