Artists in residence return to schools

Spring/Summer 2021

In a school year with so much change and uncertainty, art provided students with a sense of stability and a creative outlet for self-expression. Methow Arts education programs, which serve about 5000 students and 350 teachers in Brewster, the Methow Valley, Okanogan, Omak, Pateros, and at the Paschal Sherman Indian School, gave elementary students across the region access to both remote and in-person arts education opportunities.

In addition to distributing four or five new instructional videos each week to school districts across the region, Methow Arts scaled back up its in-person Artist-in-Residence program as schools opened more widely. Teaching artists re-entered schools with paint, paper, pastels, and a passion for passing on to their students a love of creating art.

Working with Methow Arts teaching artist Christa Culbert, East Omak and Methow Valley fourth grade students learned about bilateral symmetry in beetles. Using chalk pastels on a black background, students created a beetle with bilateral symmetry and accurate physiology. Chalk pastels require no brushes and no water, making them very easy for young students to manage. And the dark background allows the vibrancy of the chalk pastels to really pop. The Bilateral Symmetry in Beetles project supports lessons in color, balance, and biology.

Christa also worked with third graders at East Omak Elementary, creating landscape collages based on the work of artist Marty Avrett, who is of Coushatta/Cherokee/Choctaw descent. Avrett creates abstract and representational paintings informed by natural landscapes. Students started with a sketch where they were encouraged to think about depth in their pictures through the concepts of foreground, middleground, and background. They then added four different layers to create a collage landscape painting. Students also learned about texture, shape, perspective, and how color can be used to indicate time of day. You can see how a familiarity with the natural landscape of the Okanogan Valley is communicated through these Omak students’ artwork.

Meanwhile, fifth grader students at Methow Valley Elementary finished up a project they had begun as fourth graders the year before. In March of 2020, the students were participating in a still life composition residency with teaching artist Margaret Kingston. They had just painted the backgrounds of their canvas boards when schools closed, and the residency had to be abandoned. A year later these students picked up their paintbrushes, reviewed their sketches from last year, and completed their acrylic paintings.

In the still life residency students explored line quality, line contour, and various color schemes including monochromatic and dichromatic, based on primary colors. Students learned about the effects of varying line qualities, how to depict from observation, and how to build a composition using geometric and organic shapes.

These residencies, along with others in area schools, represented a return to the “normal” method of art instruction: a teaching artist, in a classroom, working directly with students to explore the beauty of creative expression.

Learn more about Methow Arts’ residencies in schools HERE.

Methow Arts also facilitates the Youth Arts Initiative (YAI) in the Methow Valley School District, which provides K-3rd grade students with weekly art sessions that focus on the principle and elements of art, building foundational skills and understanding. YAI is aligned with the Washington State Arts Learning Standards. Learn more about Methow Arts’ education programs HERE and about the Youth Arts Initiative HERE.

CONTACT:, 509.997.4004