Throughout March, the Verona School District participates in Youth Art Month, an initiative that began in 1961 and is administered by the Art Education Council, according to the National Art Education Association’s website.
Youth Art Month is a national program that “provides an environment to recognize skills developed through experience with visual art as opposed to other subjects in the curriculum, such as problem solving, creativity, communication and observation,” according to the website.
In honor of this initiative, VASD is hosting an art gallery at the high school, combining the artistic talents of students in grades K-8. Many schools in the district also participate in separate art events in March as well as later in the spring, according to Badger Ridge art teacher Sarah Grotzky.
One of those events, known as Fine Arts Week, was held at Verona Area High School the week of March 13-17, VAHS art teacher Kayleen Parker said.
“This is a week where we try to make the arts in our high school more visible and provide more opportunities for every student in the school to experience some type of visual art or music,” Parker said.
During Fine Arts Week, both the music and art departments host various events. Parker said the music department puts on concerts throughout the school day for different classes to listen to.
In addition, the music department held its second annual Piano and Sweets on Wednesday, March 15. Before the school day began, VAHS staff were able to visit the music department for what many called “a great start to their day,” with a variety of pastries for staff to enjoy, accompanied by piano music performed by the students themselves of VAHS.
In the art department, Parker said all students are invited to attend various activities planned throughout the week, such as painting and crafts such as stamping or creating collages. During lunch, students also had the opportunity to create artwork on pottery wheels in the atrium.
Fine Arts Week isn’t just for students, however, Parker said. Like the music department’s Piano and Pastries event, the art department also provides opportunities for VAHS staff to get involved and network as colleagues.
Each year, Parker said the department offers a “Whin and Paint Night,” where typically 15-20 employees enjoy snacks and create pictures together.
Staff members are always encouraged to offer their own activities as well, Parker said. For example, staff members who enjoy crocheting, painting with watercolors, or listening to a certain type of music can suggest relevant activities to connect with students.
“Overall, we have an incredibly creative staff,” she said. “The arts are not part of the music and art department, but we have people who enjoy working with art materials throughout our school.”
For Parker, it doesn’t get any better than teaching art in Verona, especially with the resources and opportunities available to students.
“I mean, teaching art in itself is a really great experience because we can help kids communicate in a way that they don’t necessarily do in other classes,” she said. “Art is all about communication, but it’s a visual medium rather than a written or spoken one.”
Parker said students have access to some of the best materials in high school. Both the photography and visual media programs at VAHS use industry-standard equipment such as DSLR cameras and the Adobe Creative Suite.
“People who are creative people and make this their career, they’re using the same things our kids are using,” she said. “So this is really special to me.”
When walking around the VAHS art department, Parker said — from her perspective — it’s on par with a college-level department, not only in terms of resources, but in the physical spaces themselves.
“We have beautiful classrooms,” she said. “We have so much natural light and 16 wheels in the pottery studio. There is nothing better than teaching art in Verona.”