Colorful winter break at the Cardinal's Nest
Waitsburg Elementary students tap into their creative sides with vacation art program
January 9, 2020
WAITSBURG-The last few days of winter break are their own kind of limbo. Kids are starting to wake up from the holiday-induced comas, parents are going back to work, and babysitters are seemingly hard to find. The Cardinal's Nest Art Program came up with a solution, though: two days of art projects at the elementary school.
Kathy Schirm, who coordinates the art portion of the afterschool program, secured space and supplies, as well as ample treats, for the students last Thursday and Friday. Thursday morning, a group of 23 kids ranging from kindergartners to 5th graders, painted wooden rounds and canvases. On Friday, they got to do an acrylic pour. Both days, you could feel the pure excitement buzzing around the room. Friday's vibe was so strong, it filled the entire multipurpose room at Waitsburg Elementary.
In her nearly 20 years of working in the school setting, Schirm has come to recognize the importance of keeping kids busy in a safe environment. She doesn't claim to be an art teacher, but she knows how valuable art can be to young people, and she loves providing a creative outlet and guidance. Schirm says she often finds herself reflecting on one of Mrs. McCaw's favorite sayings: 'The cool thing about arts and crafts; every kid is successful on their own level.' For those who don't know Mrs. McCaw, she was the third grade teacher at Waitsburg Elementary for many years, and she was (and still is) adored by all of her students. Schirm's love for sharing art gained its roots during her years working as a paraeducator with Mrs. McCaw, and Mrs. Pam Conover.
The Cardinal's Nest itself is funded by a 21st Century Grant, and while the art program benefits from the grant, it is made possible by a generous private foundation, supplies donations, and volunteer hours. The foundation made it possible to purchase the paints, silicone oil, canvases, and other supplies for the winter break program. Carnegie Picture Lab, the nonprofit art education organization from Walla Walla, donated canvases for the kids to paint and draw on during the down time.
The Waitsburg Resource Center provided money to purchase treats and drinks for all of the kids. The Resource Center has money set aside to help groups that support kids: The Center helps out with much more than just food. The youth is truly Waitsburg's pride and joy, and the community continues to prove time and time again that healthy growth of the kids is important.
Thursday's project was a quick painting activity. Tom Schirm spent a healthy amount of time cutting out and priming wooden rounds for the kids. The once plain rounds quickly morphed into starry night scapes, foxes, and gradient color schemes, among other things.
As kids filled the old music room at Waitsburg Elementary, it was immediately obvious that the kids were there simply because they wanted to be. The room was buzzing with happy chatter, but the moment Schirm called out "artists?" the kids stopped what they were doing, and in unison responded "yeesssss." They were ready to listen and get started.
The Schirms, and Rosie Nechodom (who thought she was there to just drop off kids, but ended up staying for the entirety of the project) patiently helped dispense paint, and encouraged the kids. Kathy Schirm expressed genuine excitement with each project that was brought up to her, and asked the kids to tell her about their paintings, and all the kids happily explained their inspiration. It's easy to see why the kids enjoy the art days at the Cardinal's Nest so much.
Friday's acrylic pour was the big project. Schirm said that she was a little worried that she had bitten off more than she was able to chew, but as the morning got rolling, everything came together for a smooth operation. Dane Kiefel, Margie Benson, Ginny Jones and Ginger Kessel were there with their kids, but they didn't hesitate to jump in and help with various parts of the project. Programs like this would not be possible without the quiet help from volunteers, and Schirm could not express enough gratitude to the individuals that rearranged their day and stuck around.
A mixture of acrylic paint, pouring medium, and silicone oil waited in cups at the 5 different pouring stations in the multipurpose room. There were a handful of paints for the kids to choose from, and the adults helped them mix their colors. Once the paint was ready, the kids placed a canvas over the cup of paint, and quickly flipped it over. After setting the canvas down, they lifted and moved the cup around, creating marbled masterpieces. Some of the kids even achieved cell spaces in their artwork, courtesy of the silicone oil and a dash of patience.
The kids got creative with their pours. Some of the kids were blowing on the paint to manipulate the mixtures. Some of the canvases were tilted at sharp angles, while others took their time and slowly moved the paint around. You could see the lightbulbs glowing when something worked, or when they observed a friend doing something cool. The art aspect was fascinating enough, but watching the kids experiment with the paint was refreshing in its own way. Letting kids be kids in a constructive setting is a great way to tap into otherwise dormant creativity.
Since there were only enough adults and stations for 5 kids to pour at a time, the kids had access to a plethora of markers and paper, and they were encouraged to draw while they waited their turn. One youngster created a 'Treats: 10c Each' sign, and others were drawing animals and landscapes. It turns out that was just a cover, though. What they were really doing was creating a thank you card for Schirm. Natalie Knudson, a fifth grader, took charge of making the card, and getting all of the kids to sign it. The kids made the card all on their own, without any prompting. The sweet gesture had Schirm just tickled pink.
The final results of the pours were amazing. There were bright yellows mixed with orange and green. Some of the kids chose a patriotic red white and blue theme, and others mixed pinks and blues for cotton candy appearances. Some of the designs turned out pleasantly simple, while others had endless twists and swirls. There were a couple of leftover canvases, and the adults jumped on the chance to use the leftover paint and created masterpieces of their own.
Schirm described the program as 'beautifully, pleasantly done,' and she said she was so proud of how well everything came together. She is currently exploring options for an art program during spring break, and she would love to host something over the summer. If you are interested in keeping the program strong, Schirm said that the program happily accepts donations of supplies, painting shirts, and volunteer hours.