Life Skills art

Visiting artist Jeff Mather demonstrates a technique to North Park Elementary Life Skills students last week.

NORTH LOGAN, Utah — The smell of paint and the sound of laughter and excitement could be heard from the North Park Elementary art room as the Life Skills students worked on an art piece that was to be installed in the school’s library on Friday.

With guidance from visiting artist Jeff Mather from Atlanta, Georgia, the students designed and fabricated the art piece last week.

“They design it,” Mather said, “they build it.”

Mather came to visit through the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Access Program, which focuses on including students with disabilities in large art projects. The second-grade class also helped with the project.

The NPES Principal Alden Jack said they appreciate it when the students get the opportunity to work with a “highly skilled teacher.”

“When we have our students with disabilities in these kinds of experiences, we quite often see really significant talents or increased output and interaction,” Jack said. “It ends up being a really neat experience to watch kids be involved in art.”

Mather challenged the students to draw a design for the art piece and encouraged them to share it with other students who would add onto their idea. He said this taught them about collaboration.

“I want them to experience the freedom of design,” Mather said. “Just to let them do it. Let me see your idea.”

Once the students turned in their drawings, Mather looked through all the drawings and took ideas from the students to create a cohesive art piece.

Once the design phase was complete and the foam was cut, the students covered the foam with paper mache to add support to the pieces.

“The students do everything as much as possible,” Mather said. “They learn how to use all of the tools.”

This week the piece they made is the beginning of a bigger project.

“We already know that we want to do a big project,” Mather said. “This is just beginning, something that we will revisit in the fall and expand on.”

Because the program was only for a week, Mather said they relied on the help of parent volunteers. This made it possible for Mather to organize multiple stations where the students did different tasks.

Jack said he hoped the community could see how art can be incorporated in multiple areas of everyday life.

The goal is “understanding that art really isn’t a separate class,” Jack said. “It’s really something that we are seeking to integrate throughout the day in meaningful ways.”

Mather said one of the things he enjoyed the most is how the program encourages the school and community to celebrate the students.

“We get to acknowledge these kids,” Mather said.