Sculpture and artist Annamarie Gundlach recently completed an artist-in-residence experience at Porter, Fairview and Mary Blount elementary schools, and the experience reinforced her opinion of teaching sculpting to young students.
“I say children and clay go together like peanut butter and jelly,” she said. “They’re made for each other.”
Porter was a 10-week assignment, Mary Blount was over two weeks and Fairview, one week. The grants from the Tennessee Arts Commission paid $7,000 for the entire initiative, including her time and supplies needed to do the job.
“They were all classes in clay sculpting. Mary Blount Elementary wa a little different with the focus on nature, flora and fauna of East Tennessee,” she said.
Gundlach said art teachers normally apply for the grants, and, after the evaluation process, if she is chosen she comes into the classroom and works with the art teacher for a set period. Supplies for using clay can be costly, she said.
“Clay is getting to be very expensive, and it is time-intensive, too, for the art teacher. I’ve developed a method that can give kids the ability to complete something, make something original, and they do it all themselves and learn the basics of clay,” she said.
Gundlach works with the art teacher. “My job is to assist the art teacher in showing them the technique so that it enhances their repertoire, and they share the joy of clay,” she said.
Gundlach, a veteran artist and teacher, has worked with the Tennessee Commission for the Arts for 10 years. “These grants are available for schools and even for after-school programs. There are a lot of ways to get a grant and a lot of the money that is used for school grants come from Art Commission vanity plates. They give it right back to the community,” she said.
Gundlach thanked State Sen. Doug Overbey for his help with the program. “Sen. Overbey has been great about supporting the arts,” she said. “This only works with schools that honor and appreciate the arts and are willing to support having an artist-in-residence. It is a real community endeavor.”
Gundlach said kindergarteners she taught made medallions on a beaded necklace. They had to divide one piece of clay into four parts to make beads. “They used their fine motor skills. When it came to the medallion, they started with a sphere like a globe, and I put them through this pantomime. They copied me, and the sphere became a circle, and they learned the difference between two- and three-dimensional images,” she said.
The second graders did little animals in little nests or pots which enhanced teaching basic pinch pot art. The third graders did wall patterns using slabs of clay and putting texture on it. The fourth graders had models on their tables, and they fashioned their clay creations to look like the model they observed. The fifth graders did masks.
Gundlach said that through all grade levels, there were no cookie-cuter types of art. “We had moons and suns and monsters and faces and cats. Everything kids like. This is children doing art they can relate to on their level, so it is in their comfort zone,” she said.
Gundlach said children especially enjoy using clay. “The feedback I heard is, ‘I love art, and I love clay,’ I hear it all the time.”