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Creating a monster: Ridgefield Youth Arts Month fosters students’ creativity

By , Columbian Staff Writer
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2 Photos
Union Ridge Elementary School third-grader Ella Rupp, 8, sculpts a monster in class during the Ridgefield Youth Arts Month Program, which allows students to try out different arts in mostly free classes.
Union Ridge Elementary School third-grader Ella Rupp, 8, sculpts a monster in class during the Ridgefield Youth Arts Month Program, which allows students to try out different arts in mostly free classes. (Natalie Behring for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

RIDGEFIELD — A new pack of predators was on display Friday afternoon at South Ridge Elementary School.

Third-graders Ella Rupp, Gabby Rupp and Aubrey Cox sat around talking about the monsters they created. Gabby, 9, named her monster Flying and Walking, for its ability to do both. Flying and Walking has two large fangs, wings and is fierce, Gabby said.

Eight-year-old Ella described her monster as “scaly.” It sat upright with fangs, three tails and a turtle shell. It also eats monsters such as Gabby’s, according to Ella.

“My monster eats monsters like yours to get back at you,” Aubrey, 9, told Ella.

The three girls laughed and went back to sculpting.

The students were participating in the third annual Ridgefield Youth Arts Month, a joint effort between the Ridgefield School District, Ridgefield Art Association and other local businesses.

Throughout the month of March, instructors are leading students in a variety of art classes. On Friday, students sculpted monsters, and as part of the class, they had to come up with personalities, physical appearances and back stories for them.

If You Go

Upcoming Ridgefield Youth Arts Month activities:

• Cellphone Photography: 2:35 to 3:45 p.m. Tuesday , View Ridge Middle School, 510 Pioneer St., Ridgefield.

• Hip-Hop “Hamilton” Intro to Dance: 2:40 to 3:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, March 13 to 29 at Union Ridge Elementary School, 330 N. Fifth Ave., Ridgefield.

• Block Carving: 2:30 to 5:15 p.m. March 14, View Ridge Middle School, 510 Pioneer St., Ridgefield.

To see the rest of the Ridgefield Youth Arts Month class schedule and learn more about the program, visit www.ridgefieldyoutharts.com.

One monster, Rocklord, held a sword, had multiple tentacles sticking out of his back and urinated out of his one eye. He lost the other eye in battle.

“The monsters all had their own uniqueness,” said Ena Shipman, the class instructor. “The creativity was overflowing. It’s intuitive working with clay. The kids picked it up right away.”

The monster sculpture class has been the most popular so far this year, according to Terri Cochran, community education coordinator for the school district. Originally, there were two sculpting classes, but after both filled up pretty quickly, Cochran added a third.

This year, there are art classes on every day of the month other than Sundays. Cochran said 343 children participated in Youth Arts Month last year for a total of 1,400 contact hours. She won’t know those totals for this year until the month is over.

“The idea was to offer a class or two to expose the kids to the arts, and then it has grown immensely,” Cochran said. “They can try dance without signing up for an in-depth dance class. They get exposed to arts they wouldn’t otherwise know existed. Hopefully, they find a new passion.”

That’s similar to how Shipman discovered her love of ceramics. It was something she wanted to try but never got around to. When signing up at Clark College, one of the requirements was she also had to take an art class, so she picked ceramics. That was three years ago, and now Shipman is a member of the Ridgefield Arts Association. This was her first year being involved with Youth Arts Month.

“There are a lot of opportunities to experiment with different art forms and learn different processes,” she said. “In general, it’s a great opportunity because a lot of the classes are free. It’s a fun way to get to know some of the artists in town, as well.”

All of the instructors are volunteers artists, and all but one live in Ridgefield, Cochran said.

With growing interest in the program, from students and from volunteers, Cochran and organizers were able to add more variety to the classes this year. Last year, there were eight different classes; this year, there are 14.

Some of the new classes include the monster sculpting, hip-hop dance set to the music of Broadway hit “Hamilton” and a workshop on how to build a Didjeridu — a wind instrument traditionally used by the aboriginal people of Northern Australia.

Other classes offered during the month are block carving, cellphone photography and initial art, where students in kindergarten through second grade create art based on their names.

The classes are all free, except the Didjeridu workshop, which costs $5.

The program is partly funded by the district, along with fundraisers, money from the Ridgefield Education Foundation and some of the arts month events, such as the pancake breakfast and an Art Alive! performance Saturday night , which featured musicians, poets, actors and dancers.

Because the instructors are volunteering their time, the money goes toward art supplies for the students, advertising and rent space for some of the activities.

Cochran said she hopes the program continues to grow so she can give students multiple class options each day in the future. If it grows like it did this year, she thinks that’s possible.

“This year, when we started letting parents sign their kids up for classes, I had a line out the door,” Cochran said. “I never had that before. They learned from last year that they need to sign up in advance to get their kids into some of the classes.”

Columbian Staff Writer

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