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Career artists serve in the schools

Working quietly in one's studio is not enough for six artists who belong to the Gibson's Landing Gallery Artists' Co-op.

Working quietly in one's studio is not enough for six artists who belong to the Gibson's Landing Gallery Artists' Co-op.

They have voluntarily decided to take their work into the community by demonstrating their art form in local schools in a bid to engage younger students in making art that is beyond the curriculum. Current Artists' Co-op president Ed Hill knows the value of starting children in art at a young age, then reinforcing it. "It gets drummed out of them as they get older," Hill says. As well, the artists hope that kids will ask them questions about art and about a career in the field. "The questions were fabulous," said past Co-op president Susan Furze, who works with fused and stained glass.

Furze had never taught children before and didn't know what to expect. Somewhat like a cooking show, she took a project in three different stages of completion to Pender Harbour Secondary School and to the Coast Alternative School in Gibsons where students had a chance to cut and solder the glass. She felt that the intricacies of stained glass work were too challenging for elementary school students but found that the youth of the alternative school really enjoyed the craft. "One of them asked if you can make a living as an artist," she said. "It's hard to say 'go for it' when you know that it it's difficult."

Yet the six volunteers are all career artists making at least a partial living from their work. Painter Greta Guzek of Gibsons has been volunteering to teach her art since her own kids were in primary school. Now, they're grown up, but she still likes to teach and stimulate through art. Recently, she taught a Grade 5/6 class and a Grade 1/2 class at Sechelt Elementary School.

"Both classes took on the same project but with completely different results," Guzek said.

The kids painted faces - large ones - using big brushes and lots of thick, water-based tempera paint. The older kids could handle the technique better but both older and younger came up with very individual creations. "I didn't put pressure on them to make the faces realistic, like portraits," Guzek said. "They all came out looking crazy. There are a thousand jobs in art-related fields. You can earn a living to support yourself while you work on your own art."

Guzek has spent time with the career counsellor at Chatelech Secondary School to convey that message, and she points out how this community is full of art and opportunities. Dubbed with the unwieldy name of the Gibson's Landing Artists' Co-op Teachers Bureau, this art extension program grew out of an idea from Hill.

"It's a community service," says Hill. "Of all people, we know the value of art in the community."

Hill and the others also regard the offer as a way to let teachers know that the artists are here as a resource. His last teaching adventure involved demonstrating his painting technique to young children at Kinnikinnick Elementary School in Sechelt. "By the time they get to high school, art is not as cool," he says. "It needs to be reinforced now."

Other artists who have offered to go to the schools or other community groups are character dollmaker Coralie Swaney, weaver Barbie Paulus, and woodturner Roberta Miller. Her plan is to take a wooden apple crafted in her studio and demonstrate a technique of gold leafing. The artists can be reached at the Gibson's Landing Gallery at 604-886-0099.

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