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Students discover their inner artists in IU Kokomo summer class

June 10, 2014
KOKOMO, Ind. — As a child, Shanique Gilliam considered herself to be a pretty good artist.

Introduction to Creative Arts ClassShanique Gilliam (L) and Keeana Walton (R) draw during Introduction to Creative Arts.

As she grew older, though, she drifted away to other interests, putting aside her interest in drawing.

This summer, however, she's picked up her crayons — this time of the Conté variety, rather than Crayola — and rediscovered her inner artist, taking the Introduction to Creative Arts class at Indiana University Kokomo.

"Most kids love to color and draw, and to sing, and tell stories," she said. "Somewhere along the way, we lose that. This class brings that back, and you realize you can still be an artist."

The six-week class includes viewing video performance of the opera La Boheme, then its modern counterpart Rent, and singing selections from the movie. In addition, students study author Isak Dinesen and the art of storytelling, learn about painter Georges Seurat, and create artworks using pointillism – where the artist creates patterns of dots to form a picture.

JoAnn Kaiser, lecturer in humanities, teaches the class, and said her goal is to nurture an interest in exploring art, and to rekindle the love of art that most people have as children.

"We want to help them remember what it was like to be a kid, before someone told us we were not good enough at singing, drawing, or telling stories," Kaiser said. "We want to re-energize them, teach them to sing, to draw, and to tell a story. You also learn about culture and history by studying the arts."

The class includes a field trip to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which Gilliam found to be inspiring.

She took her daughter, who is 7, to the museum, and said neither of them had been before the class.

"I knew it was there, but I never thought to go," said Gilliam, a health sciences major from Kokomo. "I had no idea admission was free, either. I look forward to going again."

Her classmate Angela Graff, Converse, most enjoyed the storytelling experience, with each student telling about an experience he or she had.

"You saw the lighter side of people," she said. "I felt like I really bonded with everyone."

She was apprehensive about drawing, but also looked forward to attempting to sketch with the Conté crayons, which are square drawing instruments made of powdered graphite in a wax or clay base.

"My stick figures are pretty lame, so this should be interesting," she said.

That's OK, Kaiser said — the point of the class is not to produce great artists, but for non-artists to find joy in art.

"It's fun to see that 'Aha!' moment, when a student succeeds at singing with the group, or drawing, or telling a good story," she said. "They realize they can do it, and it was fun."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 09/16/2014