“My goal is that every student will be able to make a connection to their artistic side and enjoy the process of being creative.”
That’s what Pam Holt wants for her students when it comes to Art and creativity and a new project. If you’ve ever attended the Chewelah Arts Guild’s Community Arts Show, it’s likely that you’ve enjoyed the exceptional art work submitted by Mary Walker School District middle and high school students. As their Art teacher, Pam assigns projects that stretch student expectations and instill creative and technical confidence. The Chewelah Arts Guild is delighted to recognize one of our community’s amazing fine arts teachers, Pam Holt, as this year’s Community Arts Show’s Featured Artist.
Pam brings an early and lasting love for art to her students. Pam’s parents are both artistic, so she was exposed to art at a very young age. “Without the cell phones and computers, I spent a lot of my growing up years drawing, painting and creating. Any new art supplies for Christmas and birthdays were the highlight of my life. My elementary teachers also encouraged me and gave time during the day for art. Art is my go-to for relaxation and stress relief! There’s so much I want to learn!”
Pam teaches around sixty students daily in three high school classes and one middle school art class in Springdale’s Mary Walker School District. High school students are required to take two years of art in order to graduate, though that requirement may also include drama and music. While middle school students are not required to take art, Pam says that with few electives to choose from, she sees at least half of the 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. “For some students, art is a great release and can help improve memory, decision-making skills, and improve problem solving. I think art is different for each student, but I see self-esteem and confidence boosted, and I am a believer that art is linked to academic achievement and a connection to various cultures.”
When asked what skills she wants students to focus on, Pam says it’s important for students to understand and to be able to reflect on their use of the elements and principles of art. “For example, when they understand shading and the use of light, creating space, using line to create an emotion, mixing color correctly or using color for emphasis, recognize pattern, texture, and balance, their artwork is amazing. If used daily this art vocabulary just becomes part of the creative process.”
Pam continues, “Art can be intimidating, but if they can learn to accept the successes and failures, learning from each, it can be very rewarding. I associate math and science with art, and how they are all built on steps. With the accomplishment of one step, the adventure begins with each additional one. The hardest part is to convince students not to get down on themselves when the project doesn’t turn out like they like. I try to get them to see what they accomplished well and how they could improve next time.”
When asked how she encourages and pushes students, Pam answers, “I make sure they understand the assignment and what I will be grading them on. I have examples, and demonstrate each lesson. It’s important that I recognize where each of my students is, as far as skills and confidence. Encouragement and positivity are essential to creating a safe creative atmosphere. Sometimes the hardest thing is to get students to believe in themselves and take a chance. A small improvement is a great accomplishment, so I try to get them to see every little improvement. I also tell them I hold high expectations, and will help them in any way so they will only give me their best! I’m sure students would say I am relentless on encouraging them to keep going when they want to quit and I know they can do more.” Pam says she’s very lucky to have support from Mary Walker staff and parents. “I get a good budget for supplies, but art supplies are very expensive and sometimes it takes me a few years to collect enough of a particular material in order to have enough for three classes.” She wishes that the elementary students had more exposure to the arts. “Of course, the first things cut when the budget gets low are the arts: music, drama, and fine art. But, I do know if we instill the creative confidence in students from a young age, they would not fear taking the necessary risks as they grow older.”
Pam puts up posters of famous artists, from Van Gogh to more current artists. “We talk about how various artists use the elements and principles of art in their work and how each have their own special technique that reflects a style you can recognize.” When asked if she tries to include a variety of media, she says that since she doesn’t have a beginning or advanced, or a separate class for clay, she always has a group of mixed abilities and exposures. She hopes her students experience as many mediums as possible. “Various paints, pastels, inks, clay, paper, collage, pencil, etc. I also tell them they may not like every medium, but they will never know until they try it. Some will love watercolors while others hate it. They get to know their weaknesses and strengths and I let them know I’m proud of them for sticking with the project and giving me their best, even though they aren’t enjoying that particular project, tool or medium. I also have different projects throughout the high school years so returning students don’t have to repeat a particular theme.”
Pam finds class projects from her own accumulated collection, but also from internet art sites where teachers share ideas. “I never run out of ideas! I will throw in projects that reflect the styles of famous artists…Van Gogh thick strokes, Matisse cutouts, Miro’s lines and shapes, etc.” When asked if some of her students have continued in the Arts after graduating, she answers, “I have had students go further in the Arts in college. One graduated last year and is now an art teacher on the west side of the state. It’s fun sharing projects with her. One just got back into art and is now exhibiting in art shows. A couple have gone into culinary arts and have reflected how art helped with decorating and creativity.”
Everyone is welcome to see Pam Holt’s students’ work, as well as the unique variety of work created by local artists of all ages and proficiencies. These will be on display at the Chewelah Community Arts Show at the Civic Center, February 15, 16, 1:00 to 5:00 pm, and February 17, noon to 3:00 pm. This FREE annual event is sponsored by the Chewelah Arts Guild. Call Susanne: 935-4652 or Leslie: 675-0910, or visit www.chewelahartsguild.org for more info and for artist packets.