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HOTL's artist in residency program inspires young minds

Connie Vandermay/FOCUS Lily Aakre sketched a lion last week in Tracy Hein's second grade classroom. Marlene Johnson is an artist in resident at Heart of the Lakes Elementary School, providing students with art education on a monthly basis.

Thanks to funds raised through Heart of the Lakes Elementary School's com-munity carnival last year, this year's students have had an opportunity to dig a little deeper into the world of art.

The carnival-funded artist in residency program has been bringing retired Perham teacher Marlene Johnson to HOTL for one week a month, providing 70 minutes of art instruction in every class-room.

"It's a full, full, full 70 minutes," Johnson said in a phone interview.

Using other artists as examples, Johnson's lessons include: art history, developing basic skills and techniques, and experimenting with different mediums.

So far in the art program, kids have explored things such as the elements of shapes, drawing in proportion and the importance of imagi-nation.

Each month, Johnson spends the first part of her lessons reviewing what was learned previously, and then she expands on that knowledge. For example, in an art session last week, students used what they learned last month about the elements of shape, and added that to a new concept of movement in art.

Through the art program, kids have learned "there isn't a right or wrong way. We encourage each other instead of saying 'mine is better,'" Johnson said.

This idea seemed to be the norm in Tracy Hein's second grade class. Last week during Johnson's visit, the kids were quick to check out each other's work and offer encouraging comments.

Johnson also changes her lessons slightly to make them age appropriate. In last week's session, for example, the older kids drew a more advanced and detailed tiger, while the younger kids drew lions.

Another benefit of the artist in residency program is that, for many kids who struggle in school, in "the art world they have experienced a great deal of success," said Johnson.

She added that the program is good for the kids: "Art allows them (kids) to develop the creativity in their brain."

"I love doing it and I think it's really important," Johnson said of the program. And the "teachers are very supportive."

The kids all seem to enjoy their time with Johnson, too.

Third grade student Ericka Nelson said, "I like it when she comes because I draw really good with her."