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Learning art while social distancing; Nevada County teachers to receive video arts lessons

Submitted to The Union

Acclaimed local artist Denise Wey, mentor to many aspiring artists through her teaching at the Mud Hut, Artists Studios in the Foothills, and in local school classrooms, is now featured in a series of teaching videos being made available to classroom teachers as a resource for distance learning.

In celebration of National Arts Education Week — Sept. 13 through 19 — the Nevada County Arts Council in partnership with the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Office and Nevada County Media is releasing their first series of videotaped arts lessons entitled “The Mighty Pencil.”

The concept for the eight-video lesson series, according to Wey, is to “ensure that arts instruction and the opportunity to be creative is still available to young people. We deliberately made these first lessons very basic, using readily available supplies like pencil and paper.” In fact, the first eight lessons are based on sequentially teaching many drawing, sketching, and shading techniques using just a pencil. This week, school teachers and administrators will be getting an email with links to these lessons so that their students can have a guaranteed weekly experience with the visual arts.

“The lessons are focused for elementary aged students in grades first through fifth, but many of the lessons are applicable for any beginning artist, or anyone wanting to review basic techniques,” she continued. “Following the first eight lessons in ‘The Mighty Pencil’ series, NCArts plans to release additional standards-based art lessons featuring other respected teaching artists, possibly including Eileen Blodgett, Tiffany McGuckin, Nancy Schaefer, Misha Brown and Cheri Guerette. In all, the plan is to provide weekly visual arts video lessons throughout the year.

Denise Wey has been a teaching artist with the Nevada County Artists in the Schools program for the past five years. Nevada County Artists in the Schools is a program developed by the Nevada County Arts Council, and funded by the California Arts Council. Arts council member Brian Buckley and Superintendent of Schools Arts Coordinator Kim Ewing collaborated on submitting the grant application to the state arts council last fall, envisioning that it would subsidize teaching artists visiting classrooms on a weekly basis during this school year.

Then COVID-19 changed the way most Nevada County students are educated. This summer the Arts Council contacted Nevada County Media about the possibility of creating video lessons, and Station Manager Ramona Howard immediately went to work on producing the series. The Artists in the Schools Program was originally constrained to work in a maximum of four school sites — for the past four years at Bell Hill, Ready Springs, Scotten and Williams Ranch. County Schools Superintendent Scott Lay quickly realized the value of these lessons for all elementary students and teachers.

Lay’s office contributed funding to make the videos available to all schools in western Nevada County. As Eliza Tudor, executive director of Nevada County Arts Council said, “Teachers and families are having to be very flexible and accommodate an unprecedented number of changes. It is during these stressful times that art can be a very healthy and important way to creatively process all that is happening. These lessons should be very easy for classroom teachers to use as part of their weekly distance learning packets, ensuring that their students get at least one weekly activity that allows them to learn the techniques and experience the creativity of artistic expression.”

In addition to the emailed links to Nevada County teachers, the lessons will be available on both the Nevada County Arts Council and the Superintendent of Schools’ websites.

Source: Nevada County Arts Council member Brian Buckley


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