We who support the Arts collectively cringe with the most recent axe wielding budget cuts for art programs in schools. Music and theatre are the first specialists to go, leaving classroom teachers to do their best to implement some semblance of Arts education for their students with varying success. [But kudos to them who make the effort and bring in parent pros to help.]
Run for the Arts. Have you heard of this program? This is one Arts-centric program that is alive and kicking vigorously. Administered by Young Audiences of Oregon & Southwest Washington, the program asks students to fundraise in their local communities. Their website says that last year 24,000 students at 100 schools participated in Run for the Arts and collectively raised over $770,000! Wow. Funds raised are used to subsidize arts related field trips, artists to campus and arts projects in their schools.
And so, it was through Run for the Arts funding that I recently met muralist and visual artist Kaaren Pixton.
Kaaren was commissioned as an artists-in-residence, via Run for the Arts, to help second grade students at Prune Hill Elementary in Camas, Washington, create a “sea life” mural. Luckily, I got to help. In asking her questions about her work and experience, I decided that I wanted to write about her. After all, it is people like her, working with young people who are cultivating and inspiring future generations Arts lovers, appreciators and maybe even fertilizing budding artists.
Kaaren is the mistress of murals, particularly school murals all over the region. She couldn’t even give me a number of how many she has worked on over the years. The pure joy she exudes when working with students, gently caressing their art work and knowing their intention with it was powerful to behold. She absolutely loves her work…that enthusiasm alone makes my heart smile.
Does she have a website? Not exactly for her work as a muralist, but she does have this link to her work as an illustrator of baby books. Her work on these books is the same style as the work she does with students. Colorful, creative and visually fascinating: it is intricate layering of painted paper. In the case of student murals, the students paint the specialty paper, then layer it to make an object, like a pufferfish/seaweed/fish. This stepped process allows creative thought to take a variety of forms.
Off-handedly as we worked on the mural and I asked her about herself, Kaaren mentioned that she had illustrated baby books, something that she works on with her daughter-in-law. What an understatement! She has published three books and is working on more. Check out Ty Book Inc – as mother and past educator I love the chew-toy-meets-education nature of these books. And, if you look at the Ty Book Blog, so does everyone else – they’ve been hurrahed by all the mommy mags. With babies, everything goes in the mouth, gets pulled and dropped…that is how babies learn, the idea of making books that can take that saliva and abuse is brilliant. The website even says you can wash them – really?
Over the summer break, Kaaren is planning to finish another three books. She is also very open to working with any group or school, and in a business or home. She can be contacted through Ty Book Inc. Read a little more about Kaaren Pixton, the heart-warming artist in our schools who is tenderly ushering many children into their imaginative space through art!
photos by Holly Metzner