Arts Take the Lead at Greeley Elementary during Fine Arts Week 2012

By Anna Joranger

“Students transform the confidence [that they gain in the arts] to other places. I see it all the time. They bloom in art and think ‘I can do it!’ and they transform that confidence to other subjects…People don’t realize that it’s such a big part of our day. It should be a part of the curriculum without having to fight for it.” -Greeley teacher Lidia Zuberek

Despite funding cuts for arts education on national, state and city-wide levels, Greeley Elementary in Lakeview is one institution that upholds the arts at the center of its educational practices. Greeley celebrated Fine Arts Week from May 21-25, and as a long-time partner of this wonderful arts-centered school, Urban Gateways celebrated alongside school staff and students.

On Wednesday, May 23, students of UG teaching artist Sonja Henderson, who conducted visual arts residencies in Greeley classrooms throughout the year, held a visual art fair and exhibition. Parents, students, classroom teachers, and UG staff members gathered to admire the abundance of artwork created by 5th through 8th graders. Projects included sculptures of bacteria and viruses by a science class, beautiful Egyptian-inspired paintings by a social studies class, and elaborate self-portraits that allowed older students to self-reflect. Sonja spoke briefly at the exhibition, as did Greeley teachers and Principal Carlos Azcoitia. Classroom teachers also presented awards to grinning student artists. See the slideshow below for incredible photos!

“Students at Greeley are dreamers as well as intellectuals… Greeley exposes young people to many different cultures, and art is part of that. We are enlightening young minds about what’s going on around the world – helping them understand what’s going on in the classroom in a more tactile, visceral way,” Sonja said.

According to social studies teacher Chris D’Alessio, “The artist residency offers the students a great sense of pride. They really blossomed through the process. By learning arts, kids came out more confident and happy with themselves. It was awesome to watch. Wow, we have a lot of artists among us!”

The next day, May 24, marked Greeley’s annual arts festival. The school’s outdoor blacktop was covered with craft tables and music stations; students had the opportunity to drum with UG artist Michael Riendeau, collaborate on a mural with Sonja, design decorative masks and hair clips, and try other crafts led by staff and students from both UG and Greeley. We look forward to this day every year! See the bottom slideshow for memorable photos from the arts festival. Our thanks to Greeley’s staff and students – this partnership has been invaluable for everyone involved!

Keep an eye out for more Greeley photos this summer, as Sonja and Greeley students work together to create a vegetable garden on Sheridan Avenue!