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Perham sixth grade student JoJo Winkels is one of many younger students happy to have art classes back. Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS

Art classes back at elementary, middle schools

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Five years is a long time for a child to wait.

Although most students at Prairie Wind Middle School probably don’t realize it, that’s how long they’ve been waiting for the opportunity to take an art class.

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The middle school has been without art since 2008, when the school district’s two-person art department was reduced down to one half-time position at the high school.

“It was a time when we were going through difficult budget cuts,” explained middle school Principal Scott Bjerke. “It was cut at the middle school and never replaced until this year.”

The elementary school went even longer without art. According to several district staff members, there haven’t been specialized art classes at the school since several years prior to 2008.

That’s changed now.

When the previously part-time position opened up this past spring, the school board decided to increase that position to full-time.

Perham-Dent Superintendent Mitch Anderson said the decision came about after determining that students in the lower grades would benefit from having art classes.

In September, Lauren Hanson took on the newly expanded role of Perham’s one-person art department, and she’s done it with determination and vision.

Hanson, a 2012 graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead, spreads her time among students in the elementary, middle and high schools. During her classes, students learn about the basics of art, such as lines, tone and value, and how to make their visions a reality.

 “They are way more excited than I thought they would be,” said Hanson of her students. “It’s good for the kids. It’s a little outlet for them to have, rather than a normal ‘sit in your desk and do your homework’ day.”

Even though the younger students hadn’t had art classes before, aside from projects done in connection with other classes, they knew what they wanted to do.

“We did colored pencils and pencil drawings,” said Hanson. “But, the kids were like ‘When are we going to paint? When are we going to paint?’”

Sixth grade students got that wish granted recently, when they began a new assignment to paint a watercolor in a style similar to Georgia O’Keeffe’s abstract flowers.

Mick Meyer, one of those students, said he enjoys the chance to have art. He said he prefers using paints over colored pencils, because he can create more of his own colors.

JoJo Winkels said she enjoys being able to pick colors she is fond of for her own project – and the break art offers from other subjects.

As Hanson looks forward to the future, one of her goals is to begin holding art shows after the trimester or quarter ends.

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