In the bustling art room at Indian Peaks Elementary School, a class of enthusiastic 5th graders is engrossed in creating Mexican nichos, small 3D shadow boxes filled with special treasures or photographs. Armed with cardboard, paint, and other embellishments, they are fully immersed in designing and crafting their unique masterpieces.
Thanks to a grant from the Niwot Rotary and Firehouse Art Studio, the school brought in local artist Joyanna Rose Gittings as a guest art teacher. Gittings operates Obra Arts in Longmont and is a bilingual instructor for the Art Attack program at the Firehouse Art Center. She also serves as the board president of the East Boulder County Artists Group.
This exciting collaboration highlights the importance of bringing local artists into schools to inspire and engage young people in the arts. According to Indian Peaks Principal Kathi Jo Walder, the school partners with the Niwot Rotary regularly, but this is the first time they’ve brought in a guest artist. When asked what she hoped the students would gain from having Gittings as a guest teacher, she said, “I want them to see another perspective of art, and she’s bringing in Mexican art, which is not something they always get to see.”
During her week at the school, Gittings introduced students to a diverse range of Mexican-themed art projects that utilized common household materials in innovative ways. Her aim was for the students to create art using repurposed or found materials and items that would normally be thrown away. “We used recycled cardboard; we used scrap pieces of leather for one of the classes because I wanted to talk to them about alternatives to paper and things you purchase from an art store,” said Gittings. “Resourcefulness was a big driver. I also wanted to do projects that were inspired by Mexican art and artists.”
Gittings encourages creativity in her students by having them think about what’s important to them. “If you’re making something that’s not important to you, your heart’s not really in it.” The young artists poured their hearts into their projects. From choosing the perfect color scheme to selecting the shiniest sequins, every decision was made with care and attention to detail. The result was an impressive mix of one-of-a-kind art pieces that reflected the creativity and imagination of each child.
The highlight of the week for Gittings was getting to know the students . “They all have really interesting ideas, and I like seeing materials that I bring in and seeing them take them and do things with them that I hadn’t even thought of.” Students enjoyed exploring new techniques and materials and were proud to take their project home as a keepsake.