Rita Haldeman’s young students use sticks, stones, lots of paint and even more imagination to explore cultures and art forms from around the world.
During her 20th year teaching art camps at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art’s Ligonier Valley, artist Jeannette decided to take the quintet of children ages 9-16 this summer on a “Journey around the world in 10 days.
Haldeman shares what she has learned about several remote and distinct islands, ranging from the Galapagos Islands at the equator to Iceland, and the class uses these locations as jumping off points for a variety of art projects.
“We study the islands as much as possible,” she said, “and then we’ll have at least two or three varied projects with all kinds of media to relate to those places, so that they learn something and have something thing to remember about them.
Beyond the popular animated film series, Haldeman takes his students on a deeper dive into Madagascar’s wildlife, known for its many varieties of chameleons. So, before the end of the course on July 23, they will produce chameleon-themed art.
Students will sculpt some of the animals they have discovered in papier-mâché.
On Thursday, 11-year-old Lucy Vogelsang from Ligonier Borough drew a sketch of a dolphin she plans to model. “I was researching what kinds of animals would live in the different places, and one of the more tropical places had a dolphin,” she explained.
Her friend and fellow art camper, Leah Bielke, also 11 and a resident of Ligonier Borough, found additional inspiration for her fish sketch during a trip to the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.
“I saw a ton of different colored fish, and fish I didn’t even know existed,” Bielke said. “Inside the glass they had a fish that was big, but it looked really thin. I was trying to recreate it.
Students learned some art basics, including how to mix colors in acrylic paint and how to represent the different shades resulting from varying lighting.
“I told them not to use black paint,” Haldeman said. “Adding black to everything blurs the colors. I told them to look at the colors they can see in the shadows – blues, purples and magentas.
Haldeman also insisted on the use of natural materials. The students painted ordinary round stones to look like various gemstones. Vogelsang applied a purple tint to fashion a facsimile of amethyst, her February birthstone.
Blending contemporary abstract shapes with the symbolic themes of traditional New Zealand art, campers paint sticks in multicolored patterns and arrange them on a background to create wall hangings.
“It’s summer, so it’s fun,” Haldeman said of the camp. “But I want them to learn something and definitely have something substantial to take home.”