Rosemary Artists Bring Alta Vista Students into the Studio



Near 35 third grade students from Alta Vista Elementary School stepped out of the classroom and into the studio yesterday—three studios, to be exact—thanks to a new arts program from Any Given Child Sarasota called “Paint. Print. Dance.” Dividing into three groups, the students spent the afternoon exploring three different types of art—printing, painting and dance—with visits to Alfstad& Contemporary, Grace Howl Contemporary Art and Gallery and Sarasota Contemporary Dance for all, where professional artists awaited with exercises and encouragement.

At Alfstad& Contemporary, Studio Manager Chris Schumaker stood amongst the current exhibit with a special screenprinting station set up in the middle of the floor. Surrounded by inquisitive faces, he explains the difference between a print and a painting, how each can be valuable and how they can make their own print right there. “Does anyone want to try?” he asks, and hands shoot into the air. “I think we’re going to need a line,” he says. Under his guidance, each student tries their hand with the squeegee, making their own prints on material supplied by the gallery, that the students take home at the end of the day.

Just down the road, with balloons floating out front to welcome the day’s visitors, Grace Howl gives a group of students an introduction to abstraction and playing with color. With three stainless steel tables arranged across the room, each student has a workstation complete with a canvas square, a paper plate palette, a paintbrush and a whole array of paints and carven cork stamps. Howl makes her interference “as minimal as possible,” she says, simply asking the children to paint what feels right and listen to their emotions. Standing under a sign reading “No Fear. No Rules,” Howl adds some final wisdom—“Have fun.”

At the third stop, everyone gets a workout. Because on the top floor of Sarasota Contemporary Dance, company member Benjamin Howe leads his young charges through exercises in creative movement. Forming three lines at the end of the room, Howe challenges the students to embrace the silly side while appreciating the versatility of the body. Make circles as you dance across the room, he tells them, showing them all the different ways to make circles with arms and legs and hips. At his signal, many of them decide to roll across the floor. The exercises continue, and so does the laughter, echoing off the ceiling as the kids bounce off the walls. In the end, they divide into pairs to create their own dance move, before convening in a great circle to show off their creation.

“Art is an essential component of learning,” says Brian Hersh, program director for Any Given Child, who hopes this will be the first of many chances for students to jump into the studio and get their hands (and feet) a little dirty. “That’s aways the objective,” he says. “How do you create more opportunities and collaboration?”

Pictured: Alfstad& Contemporary Studio Manager Chris Schumaker leads Alta Vista students in a silkscreen workshop. Photo by Phil Lederer.

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