‘One Power’: ISU Art Station Shows Young People What is Possible | Local education


BLOOMINGTON – When you visit an after-school art class with K-5 kids, you expect a bit of chaos, questions, curiosity, and chatter – not a lot of deep thinking and soul-searching.

But sometimes the most discerning philosophers wear barrettes of pink and white ribbon in their hair.

While 9-year-old Micheri Seiller was working on a collage in the basement of the Boys & Girls Club at Bloomington-Normal, she said, “My favorite thing about art is that it gives the feeling that anything is possible.

This is exactly the kind of optimism the Illinois Art Station seeks because it presents programs like the Boys & Girls Club.

That’s the same optimism the Illinois State University program needs, as it runs the Illinois Art Station from a brightly colored pickup truck and temporary quarters on the campus, pending permanent space.

Illinois Art Station’s colorful minivan, the Mobile Arts Center, recently stopped at the Boys & Girls Club in Bloomington-Normal.


“Our mission is to provide all children, youth and their families with transformative learning through hands-on experiences in the visual arts,” said Isra El-beshir, nascent program director since October 2017.

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Like the young artist Micheri, Laura Berk of Normal also believes that art makes things possible.

Berk, a distinguished professor of psychology emeritus and author of several books on child development, is the founding donor of the Illinois Art Station.

While meeting with one of her editors in New York, she visited the Children’s Museum of the Arts and wanted to see something similar to Bloomington-Normal.

“I believe that the arts – the visual arts, in particular – have a unique power to support various aspects of development,” said Berk. “I envision it (the Illinois Art Station) as a place where all of this tremendous power can come together.”

The recent Illinois Art Station course at the Boys & Girls Club is one of many courses run in partnership with the Western Avenue Community Center, The Autism Place, public libraries, and other organizations.

From June to December 2018, the Illinois Art Station offered 40 classes through nine community partners, serving 1,246 children, youth and their families.

One of his most visible projects is a mural painted last summer along Constitution Trail, where it passes under Washington Street.

Another mural project is planned this year, in collaboration with the City of Bloomington and Artolution, an international non-profit organization whose co-founder and co-director, Joel Bergner, grew up in Bloomington-Normal. Bergner will lead the project. Berk is the pedagogical director of the board of directors of Artolution.

The mural will be painted on the corner of Market Street and Monroe Avenue. It will be unveiled to the public at noon on June 9. Local artists and young people who wish to get involved can apply to bit.ly/MarketYouthMural or call Peggy Finnegan-Boyes at 309-438-0882.

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Graduate and undergraduate students teach courses at the Illinois Art Station, gaining experience in their fields.

Zoe Kollias, an arts education graduate from Schaumburg, said she observed students in classrooms “and they were hesitant,” but during classes at Illinois Art Station, “they go. “

It’s one of the things arts education major Micaela Bucci loves about teaching the classroom.

“They are so willing to experiment,” said the elder from Lansing.

Brooke Ball, a New Lenox graduate assistant studying for her Masters in Arts Education, said the environment is different.

“We get the creativity and involvement from the school but not the hard rules,” Ball said.


10-year-old Sanaa Jackson has fun during an Illinois Art Station show at the Boys & Girls Club in Bloomington-Normal.


In fact, fellow graduate assistant Luke Lowers of Normal, studying art technology, said, “We encourage them to do some damage.”

Last week’s project was modeled after the work of African-American artist Howardena Pindell, who uses images to draw people in and think about bigger issues.

Ball had the students write “I am” statements on pieces of cardboard that formed the basis of their collage.

The children’s statements included, “I’m nice. “I am courageous.” “I am a leader. “

While some children chose favorite colors or random elements for their collages, Micheri created an elaborate backstory of a town with towers and bridges and “smelly cheese”.

Jennifer Hall, director of operations for the Boys & Girls Club, said the Illinois Art Station program “has been truly amazing. … It involves different people and different elements.

El-beshir said she was happy with the connections the Illinois Art Station has made so far. In five years, “I see that it is a community anchor point … an ambassador of education in the visual arts”.

Photos: Developing Creativity at Illinois Art Station

Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota

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