For the next week, Suzi Kades will be hard at work at Castaic Elementary School’s campus, painting an original mural for the school to hang in its multipurpose room.
The mural is part of an artist-in-residence program, contracted through the city of Santa Clarita, which brings an artist into a school for a week to teach students about art and the creative process.
“This is my 11th artist-in-residence, it’s a wonderful program,” Kades said.
Each year, the city hosts a meeting that allows program leaders, or contractors, to share information about their curriculum to different schools in the valley.
“I grabbed Castaic because my kids went to this school and I said ‘you guys have to do this’ and ‘I’m not taking no for an answer,'” Kades said.
Kades worked collaboratively with Castaic Elementary School Principal Stephanie Beach to help create the design of the mural and incorporate different symbols, imagery and elements into the painting.
“I always like to have different ethnicities, different age groups represented in the students,” Kades said. “I like to use imagery of books, I like to use trees and I like to use butterflies because they symbolize change, so those symbols are usually in all the pictures.”
On Monday, the mural’s final design was unveiled to students and staff during two assemblies throughout the morning.
Titled “Life is a Story,” the design includes a boy and girl of different ages sitting on a mountain surrounded by books.
“For this one, the little boy is reading a book,” Kades said. “Since it’s the 20th anniversary of the school we’re going to have him with a 20th anniversary yearbook that he’s looking at.”
The mural also includes an image of a cub, the elementary school’s mascot, playing with a butterfly next to the two students.
During the assembly, Kades also showed students photos of different kinds of art, explained what art is, described how art is made and shared tips for students to improve their art.
“Art is something that is created with imagination and skill that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings,” Kades said to the crowd of students. “It can tell you an idea or a feeling.”
Throughout the next week, Kades will work on completing the mural in the backstage area of the school’s MPR as different classes visit her to witness the creative process.
The program also includes an educational element, where teachers tie what Kades is doing each day into their lesson plans using a daily guide provided by Kades.
“I let the teachers really lead based on what they want to get out of the program for their students,” Kades said. “Mostly it’s question and answer but oftentimes, especially in the upper grades, the teachers will correlate, for instance, what they’re doing in literature…. The more they can tie it in with what the kids are doing, the more the kids can see that art is an integral part of their learning and their life in general.”
During her week at the elementary school, Kades said she hopes to teach students to “turn their mistakes into something cool” and how to stay determined.
“So it’s creative sills and life skills,” she said. “Not only do I want to inspire them to express themselves, but I really want to show them that it’s a process and that it takes practice and hard work and a lot of problem solving.”
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