Area students are getting a chance to explore art by getting their hands dirty and molding pottery.
Last year Medford students were given the opportunity to participate in a pottery class at the Owatonna Arts Center, and this year it was Blooming Prairie students who tried their hand at the wheel.
The student enrichment workshop is in its second year. “It’s our way of reaching out to other schools in Steele County,” Education Coordinator Karly Ohnstad said of the program.
“They may not have access to an arts center, and so we invite them to come here and have fun with the clay, and learn about the ceramics,” she explained. The OAC contacts an art teacher from each school who then selects students they think would appreciate and thrive in the program.
Veteran Arts Center instructor Judy Srsen teaches the students. “Judy is phenomenal,” Srsen’s assistant Christa Kain said. “She taught me since the age of three, and she still teaches me. She has such a positive attitude and loves to help people of all age groups learn.”
“The fact that Judy was able to teach Christa at a young age shows that these opportunities that we give young people blossom into the future,” Creative Director Silvan Durben said.
The opportunity for students to get to work with pottery wheels and clay was also highlighted by Durben and his staff. “They get to experience a different medium,” he said. “It gives them new ways of thinking and learning.”
“What I think is really wonderful about this project is that it’s an opportunity to enrich young people’s art experiences,” said Durben. “Not all schools have the equipment, and we want to encourage the arts to grow and like all things you start doing that with the young.”
Kain echoed Durben’s thoughts on the workshop. “This is a great program. I think art at any age is spectacular, especially at a young age,” she said. “Creativity is really where life moves forward.”
“With ceramics and clay, everything is hands-on and tactile and that’s great,” Kain said. “I love that it’s hands-on.” The students who participate in the program are able to use pottery wheels, clay, and sculpting tools in order to make their creations.
Once finished shaping their works, the students let them dry as greenware before firing them in the kiln twice and adding glaze. When they are finished, they will be fully functioning works of pottery created by each student individually.
The program is able to continue on due to grants by local businesses and organizations. This year Federated Insurance offered the Arts Center a grant. “We couldn’t do it without them,” Ohnstad said.
“Last year I got to help and I saw great progression in the students,” Ohnstad added. “I think we will see that this year as well. It was a lot of fun working with the teacher.”
By offering programs like this the Owatonna Arts Center is able to foster a love for the arts at a young age throughout the county. “It’s fun, but they’re going to learn, and they’re going to take pieces home,” Ohnstad said.
“This is our way of reaching out to our fellow communities,” she explained. “It’s about teaching the students an art form like ceramics and they get a chance to use equipment they may not get to use every day. It’s really about inspiring them to want to do art and try a new art form.”