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VSE kids paint personal touch on mural
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

May 13. 2013 7:50AM
Nichole Hansen’s favorite gift ever in her young life has been an electric scooter.

So the Valley Springs Elementary third grader painted a picture of it on one of the five wooden panels that make up a new mural created by the kids themselves.

The mural idea was the brainchild of professional artists Ariadne Albright and Susan Heggestad. The two women spent last week at the school, conducting painting workshops through the South Dakota Arts Council’s Artists in Schools & Communities program in cooperation with the VSE PTA. During the week, they focused on teaching basic techniques and elements of visual art and principles of design.

Savannah Swanson, also a third grader, summed up the weeklong program as “pretty fun.”

“I get to draw and paint, which are my favorite things to do and what I like to do,” she said.

And third grader Mya Moss documented one of her favorite places to spend time at in Valley Springs: Cassady Park. She painted pictures of the park’s giant slide and the jungle gym.

Heggestad, who worked solo with the kids on Thursday, was eager to boast about her job.

“I get to paint with kids all day,” she said.

Heggestad said every student at Valley Springs Elementary has left their mark on the mural.

During the first two days of the project, Heggestad said the kids focused on the background and theme of the mural, which features a long motif of hands in various poses. Albright and Heggestad came up with the theme from a short questionnaire the kids filled out weeks ahead of their visit. They asked three easy questions: “What’s the best thing about where you live?” “What things do you like to share with your friends and family?” and “What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?”

Heggestad said the kids produced “some really wonderful answers” and provided she and Albright with a good sense of the community.
The mural was painted on five half-inch thick plywood panels measuring 2-feet by 8-feet. Heggestad said the paint will need about a week to cure, which will be followed up by a minimum of two coats of varnish. The panels will then be hung above the rock wall in the school gym.

After spending a week with the kids, Heggestad said she hopes they’ve enjoyed the experience of working independently and as part of a team.

“When I do this kind of activity with the kids, as an artist, I like to compare the experience of being an individual and part of a group,” she said. “And it was so wonderful how team-oriented this school was and how much support there was.”

Valley Springs Elementary third graders Kate Van Voorts and Sean Gottsghaulk add their personal touches to the mural that every student at the school had a hand in creating. The mural will be hung above the rock wall in the gymnasium. Photo by Jill Meier

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