Art workshop aims to help students of all ages

By Anthony Pickens

First-grader Joshua Cheng pointed to art on the display wall Saturday, showing his mother the drawings he’d been working on. The art ranged from portraits inspired by Pablo Picasso to pictures of birds inspired by the game “Angry Birds.”

Cheng, a student at Parrish Elementary School in Carbondale, drew the three “Angry Birds” characters because he said he likes to play the game a lot.

Maya Benyas, a first-grader at Parrish, also had art on display. She created a Picasso-style portrait and said her picture of rain clouds was her favorite.


Cheng and Benyas had their work on display for The Young Artist Workshop held Saturday in Allyn Building. The exhibit featured art by children from area schools in the workshop. The workshop brought together children and SIU art students. The art students assumed the role of teachers and helped the children create their pieces, which ranged from portraits and sketches to clay works and paper collages.

Barbara Bickel, assistant professor in the School of Art and Design and adviser of Saturday’s workshop, said the event has been going on for more than 10 years and happens at least once per semester. The program draws children from Carbondale and nearby towns such as Marion and Murphysboro, she said.

With many elementary school art programs being cut, the workshop offers a place for students to get art experience outside of school, Bickel said.

She said there are two basic objectives for the program. One of them, she said, is to give art majors experience teaching children, who range from kindergarteners to sixth-graders. The workshop is a good way for undergraduate students to see if they are interested in teaching art in the future, Bickel said.

Another purpose of the program is to offer a service and learning opportunity to the community and get children interested in art, she said.

Cody Clark, a sophomore from Mt. Vernon studying art education, said he and other art students have been teaching the group of children since Feb. 4.

He said while the student teachers try to inspire children through artwork such as Picasso’s, some children draw Mario Bros. and “Angry Birds” characters.


Sarah Kandell-Gritzmaker, a graduate student in ceramic art from Addison, Mich., and supervisor of the Young Artist Workshop, said the kids tend to be inspired by one another.

“As soon as one does something differently, they all do something differently,” Kandell-Gritzmaker said.

She said the kids work with a wide range of tools including pencils, clay and paint.

During his experience teaching for the first time, Clark said it was easy to become attached to the kids, but that was also the hardest part.

Bickel said students often find it hard to say goodbye to the kids because they’re so involved with them.

“It’s an honor to teach art,” she said.