Updated Sat, Oct 12, 2013 4:18 pm
During the mixed media and design class at Athens High School on Friday, teacher Ellen Gagliano roams around the room, looking over her students’ work. She paused by Liz Huber, a freshman. Huber was examining the lips of her self-portrait, unsure of her next move.
“I think you have it,” Gagliano said. “I would focus on your upper lip. You could make it a little darker right there,” she added, pointing to one section.
Also making rounds around the room was Keith Wilde, a local artist who specializes in fine art and portraiture. He offered Huber suggestions on how to improve another part she was struggling with, the shading around her nose.
It’s not often high school students are offered instruction from both an art teacher and a professional artist. But through a partnership with The Dairy Barn, Wilde is serving as an artist in residence for about nine weeks.
The National Endowment for the Arts granted The Dairy Barn a $10,000 match grant (The Dairy Barn contributed another $10,000) to place a professional artist in a classroom for up to 40 hours to complete a project. Aside from the government shutdown that has slowed the disbursement of some of the funds, the program is going well, said Jane Redfern, The Dairy Barn’s executive director.
The project will culminate into a juried show at The Dairy Barn from Dec. 3-7, the time of the art institution’s holiday bazaar.
The program has artists at Athens High School, Logan-Hocking Schools and the Alternative School. Along with the residency comes a healthy materials budget, something Gagliano said she was especially excited about. Each school is using different materials and different styles, but the theme is the same — visualizing their concepts of home. “We’re empowering high schoolers to think about home and what it means to them,” Redfern said. Gagliano said she chose Wilde as her artist because his portraits “epitomize the theme of home.”
“It’s been a great experience for these students, to go more in-depth into the features of the face with a real expert who can show them how to develop their own style,” she said.
With Wilde’s guidance, the students at Athens High decided to use Athens Blocks, a representation of their hometown, as their canvas. He then proceeded to guide them through the classical approach to portraiture.
“I like the classic academic approach,” Wilde said. “Portraiture is complicated, hard and can be intimidating. This approach breaks it down into a lot of little steps.”
Around 50 students at Athens High will participate, including Anna Villavicencio, a senior. She said the experience has given her more confidence in her abilities. She also said Wilde has taught her to approach art in a new way.
“He treats us like real art students,” Villavicencio said. “He sets our standards high, which I like. I think it’s really cool Ms. Gagliano and Keith are challenging us like this.”
That’s just the experience Gagliano said she was hoping for.
“The ultimate goal is that they feel pride in what they do,” she said. “They don’t know they can do this good and they do, and they surprise themselves.”