Interactive studio fills creative gap

The innovative efforts of St Therese’s Coordinator Debra Petersen ensures recognition of the primary school’s gifted students in creative arts.

School principal Duilio Rufo supported her plan to build an art studio, which parents helped complete, and an arts program is up and running.

“I saw a need to showcase the potential of our gifted students in creative arts,” Mrs Petersen said. “We work hard and do a lot for our academically gifted and gifted sport students, but there was a gap with creative arts, so I filled it.”

Key to the program is the studio – a dedicated arts space. The studio not only stores the program’s resources, but it is also where ideas are brainstormed for the students’ major works.

The studio is interactive. Students paint, draw and create on the walls, and when they are full, they are painted over in white and become a clean canvas again. White boards and pin boards are also in place on which the students can stick up ideas, articles, or rough drafts.

“It is totally their place to feel inspired and work,” Mrs Petersen said. “The floor is rubber. The children are free to express themselves and are not worried about making a mess.”

All classes are encouraged to add students’ creative work to the outside windows of the studio. This enables children to display their talents across all key learning areas. 

Mrs Petersen uses the CSO parent/teacher and student checklists to identify children in stage 3, as well as collecting work samples. She organises the workshops during her executive days when she can work with the students.

The program also assists those with mental health issues and/or requiring learning support. Students can use art as an avenue to express themselves and their feelings, which helps those with anxiety and other associated behaviours.

On Friday 5 March, the studio welcomed abstract artist Jan Cristuado, grandmother of two St Therese’s students. Her workshop was tailored to expose the students to the world and techniques of an abstract artist.

“I’m all about balance,” Jan Cristuado said. “You can’t have the academic part without the arts and creativity. One feeds the other. It’s very important.

“For the students who aren’t academic, and struggle, and can be disruptive in class or are bored, something like this art program allows them to take ownership. It’s their forte. They think, well if I’ve done this, I might be able to approach maths and English differently. I can do that because I can do this. The two cross over.”

The CSO art competition is the first major undertaking. It is open to stage 3, 4, 5, 6 and adults, and is due in June. The artwork must reflect the statement “to live life to the full”. The concept is associated with mental health.

“As a group, we have taken the statement, found the positive in it, and the children are now drafting their major works,” Mrs Petersen said. “Some of their initial ideas are mind blowing and I’m totally convinced now that as a school we did the right thing for our students.” 

Two Year 6 students, Gabe and Zoe, love the program and derived a lot from Jan Cristuado’s workshop.

“Although you have to be selected for the art program, everyone is free to do what they would like,” Gabe said. “It’s not your ordinary art.

“Art for me is sometimes an escape from the real world. It’s always a place where I can just focus and get away from all my worries and struggles. It’s just really nice to become peaceful and relaxed while doing something that I love.

“Everyone who has been selected for this program will be entering the CSO competition. I’ve done a sketch that I will possibly use, but I’m still experimenting with possible ideas. We’ve learnt different techniques from Jan Cristuado that I will possibly apply to the competition. She’s been really helpful. It’s just another step up.”

Zoe said she enjoyed being free to create whatever she wanted. “We’re not just restricted to doing one specific thing every lesson,” she said. “We can come up with ideas or topics for the CSO contest. Or we can just go off and draw and paint whatever we want. We have the options.

“There are lots of materials here. We don’t have to bring our own stuff in because it is all already here. We have everything we need. Jan Cristuado taught us new techniques if we were doing abstract art. And she told us about different types of tools that I didn’t know about. So, I might start using them now.”

Jan Cristuado will be back for another workshop after Easter. “The young artists must work to a pattern, so there’s no crunch time and they’re worried about not having finished their work,” she said. “I can help them with that. I’ll also show them how to present it at the CSO competition. There’s a beginning, a middle and an end and they need to understand that concept.

“They’ve been great today. They would have been on information overload. I can only paint abstract to show them, but the concept goes right across the board – the foundations. This is all about them owning this. No matter what I say. They have come up with some amazing thoughts and suggestions, and you think, ‘wow’. They are young, but we underestimate their creative ability.”    

Staff and parents are welcome to contribute and initiate art projects in which the students can be involved. St Therese’s is also committed to other projects such as the Lotus Foundation. The art studio provides a space in which those projects to be created.

To find out more about St Therese's, New Lambton or to enrol your child, please click here.  

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