by Mary Isca Pirkola
Students Emily Horvat and Michelle Haapala have taken their art education to a new level. The pair launched Grand Valleys first Padnos Gallery exhibition by art education majors, and created a special workshop to include artwork in the exhibition by children with learning disabilities.
Art education majors are not required to have an exhibition, as are their peers in the studio art program. Yet, as Horvat and Haapala attended other students senior exhibitions, they felt an urge to have one of their own. In January they opened Process: stepping forward in (ART) education.
photo by Elizabeth Lienau Michelle Haapala, left, and Emily Horvat launched the first Padnos Gallery exhibition by art education majors.
We wanted an opportunity to showcase not only samples from our own studio practice, but also illustrate the entire process of becoming an art educator, said Haapala.
That process includes mastering their own art skill and practice, learning interdisciplinary trends in art education, developing effective instruction plans, and actively participating as art leaders in service to the community.
As part of their Grand Valley curriculum, Haapala and Horvat spent time developing projects and working with special needs students at Allendale Public Schools, the Rockford Art Buddies program and a weekend intergenerational workshop in collaboration with Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.
Those opportunities influenced my decision to become an art educator, said Haapala, who originally planned to study graphic design. While working with young children and encouraging them to think outside the box, I began to see other possibilities for myself.
Horvat said she always knew she wanted to be an art educator. Last summer she managed to juggle her schedule to include both a job back home in Richmond and at Grand Valley, teaching art classes at the Rising Star Camp for children with learning disabilities, which the College of Education has operated for nearly 30 years.
Horvat and Haapala invited students from the camp to attend their own Express and Experience workshop, to include in their senior exhibition work by students they had taught.
We wanted to give them the freedom to do their own version of something you would exhibit as a famous artist, Horvat said. They could do several pieces during the workshop and choose one to hang in the exhibition, along with their artist statement.
The young artists and their families were invited with to the exhibitions opening reception. Horvat and Haapala even made step stools to allow the young artists to get up-close views of all the pieces.
The extra efforts of the two future art educators made a lasting impression on many. Bill Hosterman, associate professor of art, said he was impressed with the efforts of the two students while they were in several of his classes. As supervisor of the Padnos Gallery, Hosterman was struck by the collaborative enthusiasm and focus they brought when they approached him about the possibility of having an exhibit. He also shared another perspective.
I attended their Express and Experience workshop with my 10-year-old son, Ben, who is non-verbal because of two strokes he had to his brain at the time of his birth, said Hosterman. What impressed me about Michelle and Emily during the workshop was the openness and kindness they showed toward Ben and all of the participants.
They responded to the students work in a gracious and caring manner and gently encouraged them to continue exploring the provided materials and ideas.
Hosterman said the subsequent exhibit was very well organized and had one of the best-attended receptions of the semester. The exhibit worked on multiple levels. First, as a reflection of the independent artwork of Michelle and Emily, and as a demonstration of their commitment and growing understanding of art education, he said.