BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — Elizabeth Wayne Pre-school art teacher Kristin Sluhan will help her 3- to 5-year-old students debut their artwork in her last art show with the school on Thursday, May 5.
The preschoolers hold a showcase each year, allowing the parents a glimpse at what they have been doing in the classroom. This year’s theme is Art Around the World.
“We based it on the continents,” Sluhan said. “We did an environment for each continent and then we did art inspired by the culture.”
On Thursday, the school will be closed for Sluhan to transform the classrooms, hallways and basement into an art gallery featuring hundreds of the students’ pieces.
“Before, we would just put pictures up in classrooms, taped to the walls,” director Cristy Seely said. “Now, the school will be completely transformed. You won’t even know it’s a preschool. Kristin turns it into this amazing museum.”
A large dragon installation will be located in the Asia area. A faux stained-glass rose window, reminiscent of Notre Dame’s famous features, will be seen in the Europe section. A neon coral reef, lit up by black lights, will represent Australia.
“One of the fun things we’re doing this year is neon art,” Sluhan said. “For Antarctica and Australia, all of the art for those two continents is done with a black light.”
It is important to Sluhan for the children to experience several different methods of art. The preschoolers experiment with different materials and colors to learn what they like and also to appreciate art, she said.
The children also participate in a mixture of process and project art. With project art, she guides the children to an end goal of how a piece of art is supposed to look. For process art, the final piece is not nearly as important.
“It’s just them going through the process and learning how to use scissors and learning confidence and being creative,” Sluhan said. “I’m not here to teach them how to draw. I’m here to teach them to love art and to love learning.”
Seely said she has noticed an increase in the students’ interest in art since Sluhan joined the preschool six years ago. Many of the young students have started to list “artist” when asked what they want to be when they grow up, Seely said.
The kids receive one hour of art each week from Sluhan and she tries to fill each hour with enriching material to create a foundation for their education, Sluhan said.
“A parent told me they had taken their daughter to the museum, and they decided to walk around, and her daughter saw a painting and she said, ‘This is by such-and-such artist, and this is what they did,’” Seely recounted. “Her mom walked over and read the description and she was right. She learned about it in art class.”
The lessons help the children become more appreciative of art and the process involved, Sluhan said. They are better able to grasp that art is not one particular thing.
“Not only are they learning about artists and customs and cultures, but they’re also learning emergent writing skills, emergent literacy skills, math concepts. All of that happens,” Seely said.
The art show is a tangible, visual way for parents to understand some of what the students have learned. It’s also a way for the kids to show off, Sluhan said.
“It makes them feel so special,” Sluhan said. “It’s important. They put effort into it, and whatever you put effort into is important. It makes them feel like they accomplished something.”
The public is also welcome to celebrate the students’ accomplishments during the May 5 art show. There will be a basket raffle and a 50/50 raffle. An auction will also be held online leading up to the event.
“We do an art auction as well,” Sluhan said. “The kids create the building blocks for us to make a bigger piece. The piece is finished by adults, and it is something that somebody would be proud to hang in their house.”
For the past six years, Sluhan has put in a lot of work to create the art program and the art show as they are now. With her exit to care for a family member, the school has found a new art teacher, though, who will continue with the art shows and the curriculum Sluhan has established.
“It’s bittersweet to leave, but the teacher who’s going to take over is very excited about it and she’s going to continue the curriculum I developed,” Sluhan said.
As she prepares to leave, Sluhan’s main goal is to know the children have learned that art can be anything and it can be amazing.
Those interested in seeing the art the children have created may stop by Elizabeth Wayne Preschool at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 310 Elizabeth St. in Maumee, between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 5.