Families explore the world of color at the Roswell Museum and Art Center
By Christina Stock
Neuroscience research is revealing the impressive impact of arts instruction on students’ cognitive, social and emotional development, but art goes further. Art connects cultures and people from all walks of life. Art opens the pathway for communication while admiring a music performance or dance. The foundation of culture and understanding starts in school and teachers, deans and principals are always looking for a better way to help children develop fully. In May, Roswell’s children and their families had a new way of experiencing the arts in a first-ever partnership of the Roswell Museum and Art Center with Roswell Independent School District’s Arts Connect program of the Creative Learning Center, sponsored in part by the RMAC Foundation. It was so successful that the organizers decided to have another Family After Hours.
The RMAC, 1011 N. Richardson Ave., opens its doors for the second Family After Hours, with the theme, Fields of Color, on Aug. 29 from 5 to 8 p.m.
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Families and children are invited to explore the world of color. Once more, the RMAC will be filled with free hands-on art activities encouraging parents to partner with their children to create, while building memorable, shared experiences.
A gallery talk about the new exhibition Coloring Inside the Lines with RMAC’s curator of collections and exhibitions, Aubrey Hobart, will be offered at 6 p.m.
Art activities will include painting, collage and drawing — all exploring color, lines and shape.
The event is sponsored in part by the RMAC Foundation. Light refreshments will be provided.
Executive director of RMAC, Caroline Brooks, is looking forward to the event.
“We are excited to partner again with Arts Connect on presenting Family After Hours,” she said. “The program combines both of our talented staff and resources to create a fun, creative experience for local families.”
RMAC’s curator of education, Amanda Nicholson, works closely together with Abie Smith, the Arts Connect principal at the Creative Learning Center. “Last time we had over 500 attendees,” Nicholson said.
“We were amazed at the crowds at the first event, which tells us we are on the right track with filling the needs and interests of the community,” Brooks said.
Smith said that they were planning to have two Family After Hours per year. “We are utilizing this as our open house, too, so that families can come out and meet the students’ fine arts teachers,” Smith said.
The theme is based on RMAC’s current exhibition, Coloring Inside the Lines, which is, according to Smith, ideal. “We start off our school year having students understand the color wheel and lines — it moves very smoothly into what our academics are,” she said.
“It’s more of an abstracted show, which focuses mostly on color, line, shape, which we thought would be something really accessible for students in terms of creating art — and drawing inspiration from what they are seeing at the museum,” Nicholson said.
Asked about how many students will benefit this year from the Arts Connect program, Smith said, “It looks like we have about 5,700 K-6th grade and 800-plus in some grade levels. It’s a challenging new start.”
There are a couple of new faces in the visual arts class the parents will meet at Family After Hours. “Rhonda Pharis was our fifth-grade performing arts teacher last year, and she has come over to visual arts and she’s doing kindergarten this year,” Smith said. “She’s done that in the past during K5 plus with kindergarteners, she’s very excited to try that during the school year.
“Then we have Ben Brooks who is actually the husband of Carolyn Brooks. We are excited. He has some great community connections for us, as well, and he has a bachelor in fine arts. He will be our fourth-grade visual arts teacher,” Smith said.
“We’re going to do only four visual art activities because it’s Rhonda’s first event and Ben’s first event with our program. They are going to be partnering with a couple of other veteran teachers. But this time, we are combining some performing arts so we have two different performing arts activities for our families to participate in,” Smith said. “There is the game that most students will know — they absolutely love it, it’s “The Night at the Museum.” Then we are going to do some tableau, as well. Out in the courtyard, we are going to do some drum circles.”
According to Smith, the event functions also as their open house event where parents can meet the teachers of their children and get a glimpse into what their kids do at art class.
“We really wanted to capture the program essence of Arts Connects and it is both visual and performing, and we integrate the arts in our curriculum, so what better way for families to truly understand what we are about,” Smith said. “Again, RMAC is amazing in finding us spaces and Amanda in collaborating and giving us ideas. We are feeding off the displays that they have.”
Asked about why RMAC is opening its door to families, Nicholson said, “Our goal — especially with these types of events — is always to broaden our reach for our audience and the types of people that come into the museum. And that they see the museum not only a resource but a place where there are fun things happening. They can bring their kids and get to have a deeper experience with art besides just coming and looking at it on the walls. They actually get to make art. This is part of the reason why our collaboration with the CLC has been so great because their trained visual art teachers come in and they are coming up with the lessons and interacting with the kids. RMAC is more than happy to facilitate and we are always happy to get new faces in the door.”
Smith said that she is thankful for the support by RISD superintendent Dr. Ann Lynn Mcllroy and the district level administrators who give them the opportunity to compare their system with others at state conferences. One of those meetings resulted in having a plein air (painting outdoors) excursion to meet Michael Hurd, son of the painter Peter Hurd, in Hondo Valley.
These all are new ideas for the Arts Connect program. Asked what Smith’s biggest hopes for the program longterm is, she said, “Ultimately, it would be to double the program.”
New at the Creative Learning Center is the support of an arts integration specialist, Smith said. “Chris Ard has a master’s in arts integration. She is looping with the students going from third to fourth grade this year and we’re creating an arts integration cohort for teachers to come and collaborate once a month on Wednesdays on what students need in the classroom. The arts integration specialist is teaching the common corps standards and what deficit there is that students may have. I’d love her to be a coordinator for the district, so that all grade levels could experience that and we can get general teachers to understand how to implement within the classroom. I have a lot of dreams.
“I think all could not have been done without the teachers that I already have, that are willing to try and do anything,” Smith said. It couldn’t have been done without our community, such as RMAC. They have been a tremendous support on providing ideas, resources. It takes a village, right?”
Asked about the future plans of RMAC, Nicholson said, “I think, our goals is to just continue to broaden our range of who we can bring in and working with the CLC is fantastic because they are actually in the classrooms with these students, and it’s so much easier for them to get the word out about what is going on in the community. That’s been a huge asset for us through this whole process.
“Keep your ears and eyes out for things going on at the museum. In October, we have our big Art and Science Festival coming up, it’s our second year doing that — that’s our big project we are working toward right now,” Nicholson said.
According to Smith, the children of Arts Connect will have a display at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair for the public to see. Other community galleries are becoming more popular, as well. There is one already installed at the RISD board room and one coming in October at the Lovelace Regional Hospital.
For more information, visit risd.k12.nm.us/administration/instruction/clc.cfm or roswell-nm.gov/308/Roswell-Museum-Art-Center or call the RMAC at 575-624-6744.