by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor
It was a quiet basement room at Westminster Presbyterian Church. About 20 youth of the community were concentrating on coloring a cardinal they each had sketched.
There was an occasional question, but other than that, there was a lot of thought and care in every stroke.
Art is being taught to young people in the community. It’s only a small group of 21, but it is an energetic group that is willing to soak up each piece of information they can get.
A program called Art Rocks has been started to fill a void. There are three sessions of five weeks each during the school year. The third of the season got underway, Feb. 28.
The Revs. Greg and Karen Zurakowski went to church’s session (church board) and said, “We heard there is no art in the school.” said Karen, who is a former art teacher asked, “Would you like to do anything about that? They said ‘yes.’ We see that as a ministry we can offer.”
Ann Bennett, who serves on the session and is a former special education and elementary teacher, knew this is something Rogers City needed.
“The only art teacher was in Onaway, and not even in the elementary,” said Bennett.
The church body started fundraisers, including a unique one called Cabin Fever Rendezvous during the winter, where they have a potluck once a month. The most recent one was to a theme of Mardi Gras. Funds raised pay for the art supplies.
“It’s fun because I like to draw,” said Hailyn Clark, a Rogers City sixth-grader. “It’s making me a better artist.”
Students her age and younger, are getting the same from a dedicated group of retired educators leading the class.Hailyn said it’s the women running it that have made it enjoyable.
“I have learned how to blend with pastels, which is a big benefit for the artwork we are doing right now,” said Angelee Piechan, another sixth-grader.
Lauren Berry, who taught art in school, likes the idea of giving youth a chance to express themselves creatively.
“Learn about different elements and principles of art and to have a chance to practice it in a really nice, relaxed atmosphere,” said Berry, who has enjoyed the return to the classroom setting.
“I am a little surprised at how quickly they pick up on everything,” said Berry. “They have learned so many terms. It’s fun getting back into. You cannot even believe how quick the hour goes.”
“I am so pleased to have my grandchildren involved in it,” said Bennett.
There are 21 in the final group of the season.
“There is such a need for arts in this community,” said Karen. It’s 15 hours a year that we are giving them, and to see what they do with that time. You wonder what would happen if they had it every day in school. Math scores go up when there is art; language art scores go up when there is art; kids that fall through the cracks and want to leave, stay, because the ones that love art have something meaningful to keep them there. It’s not wasted money.”
Soon after the final class is taught, there will be a show after one of the church services. The date had not been set.