KOKOMO, Ind. — There’s more to a painting than meets the eye.
For about 150 Kokomo-area elementary and middle school students, the artwork they created at Indiana University Kokomo goes beyond acrylic paint on canvas. It’s also a lesson in multiculturalism, creativity, decision-making, and more.
That’s the goal for the Little Artists program, hosted by the campus’s Multicultural Center, in partnership with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission. A grant from the Tippecanoe Artists Federation paid for the experience.
“The Little Artists program is making a greater connection to the community through art,” said J.C. Barnett III, director of the Black Student Center, which is part of the Multicultural Center. “We’re taking the opportunity through art to connect with younger students, to get them enthused about artwork, but also get them on campus at IU Kokomo. We want them to know this place is here and present for them to pursue higher education.”
Students from Sts. Joan of Arc and Patrick School worked with professional artists over two days. The first, 92 third through fifth graders created Día de los Muertos-inspired paintings, led by Robin Williams. Thursday, Ramona Daniels guided 60 middle schoolers as they created Minecraft selfies.
Alumni Hall buzzed with the sounds of conversation as the artists worked, with a faint smell of acrylic paint permeating the air. Each day the teaching artists strolled around the tables, answering questions, offering suggestions, and admiring creations.
Williams, who also serves on the arts federation’s Regional Advisory Council, led the younger students through a project titled “Corazón,” which is Spanish for “heart,” and incorporates a lesson about the traditional Mexican Day of the Dead commemoration.
“It’s a reflection for them, but also a multicultural lesson,” she said. “It symbolizes the loss of a loved one. I tell them the painting is an invisible thread that connects their heart to the person no longer here. They reflect on the person they love and miss and put all of that into their work. Their paintings came out beautifully, and each one is completely different.”
She added that the arts federation wants to be sure children have access to multicultural and diverse arts experiences.
Ramona Daniels chose the Minecraft selfie paintings knowing they would be of interest to middle schoolers. She enjoyed the opportunity to encourage creativity.
“I believe this is the age group you need to start with in order to get them to grow up and mature and be the type of adults we need in our society,” she said. “They start out with a level of creativity, but it’s not nourished. This allows them to explore different mediums.”
Darlene Poulard, a member of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission, said after the commission completed building of the memorial in Kokomo, it extended its purpose to promote education to young people, and encourage them to pursue higher education.
“Creating art is a great way to do that,” she said.