Students at the Fletcher Elementary School are experiencing a “stroke” of artistic genius thanks to a grant of materials from the Vermont Watercolor Society.
Founded in 2014, the VWS’s “I Can Paint” program has been awarding artist-grade watercolor painting tools and supplies to students in grades three through eight for the past three years. During their first year, the group distributed 60 kits. In 2016, over 200 kits were gifted.
The Vermont Watercolor Society, founded in 1995 by a small group of painters, now boasts over 240 members and aims to promote an awareness and appreciation of the medium. Their gift of watercolor kits is made directly to students with the hope that they develop an interest in art and use the materials beyond class time.
“It was really fun to use these materials,” sixth grader Zachary Bushey said. “The colors were interesting and there were a lot of them. These materials were different from what we regularly use. They were professional grade. I have never had a kit that came with all of the colors you need.”
Each kit contained a variety of paints, brushes and high-quality watercolor paper, and is distributed without regard to artistic ability.
Asked why watercolors are an important medium for students, Art Teacher M.C. Baker said, “Watercolors are just one of those accessible mediums that kids can find and use at home. The gift of these high-quality materials is a great hook to get them interested. Watercolors are not like other mediums that kids only have access to in school. It’s a really nice, portable medium that students can continue to find and use, even after the gifted supplies are gone.”
“Painting with watercolor requires a particularly focused look at what it is that you have chosen to paint.” VWS President Mark Neilsen said. “Our hope with this program is that the act of painting in watercolor will require the participants to slow down, to concentrate, and to increase their powers of observation of the world around them. “
In Fletcher, sixth graders completed a portrait study that was also integrated into their math class, among other projects.
“I thought that they were just a lot better quality than the kits we usually use,” sixth grader Shaun Gibson said. “They had lots of paint and better brushes. It’s just easier and more fun to paint with the better materials. I feel more like an artist.”
The “I Can Paint” program is supported by individual and group donors, as well as grant funding. In 2016, over $5,000 supported the assembly of 258 kits valued at $25 each. In the three years since the program’s inception, over 380 students throughout the state have been reached. Volunteers from the Society also provide watercolor instruction in classrooms.
“Schools just don’t have the budget to always buy the very best materials,” Art Teacher M.C. Baker said. “This gift of great tools and supplies has been the first time that some students have worked with such nice materials. They instantly take the projects more seriously. They are more engaged and more curious because they become real artists.”
The Fletcher School will participate in an annual show of student work produced with the materials to be held at Towle Hill Studio in Corinth.
“Better materials just improve the quality of art and the motivation of children,” Baker said. “They just feel like more authentic artists when they know that they are using materials that professionals are using.”
Read more about the Vermont Watercolor Society.
Target – Engaged Community Partners: FWSU staff and students engage in authentic learning opportunities with local, regional, state and global partners to make a difference in their community, state and world.
Indicators of Success: (1) Students pursue interests and opportunities, challenge convention, and make positive contributions in their community, state, and world. (2) Collaborative projects and partnerships are part of the fabric of the broader community. (3) Students and staff participate in a global dialogue with partners located outside of their school community and engage in authentic investigation and problem solving.
Action Step: (1) Plan and manage instruction to address problems relevant to students and their community; design and present solutions to authentic audiences.