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Throughout the month of April, National Poetry Month, award-winning California poet Shawn Pittard (left) and book artist Andie Thrams (right) have been involved in the Poem On! project in Bill Beveridge’s sixth grade English classes at Gold Trail School. As the poet-in-residence for Poem On!, Shawn worked hands-on with three classes of students, introducing them to the pleasures of poetry, and getting them to experience the world and poetry through the senses.
To this end, the students took a field trip to the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony Farm (right in Gold Trail School’s backyard) and closely observed the water, land, and sky through touch, taste, sight, hearing, and smell. After the field trip, the students brainstormed their poems, and then, with assistance from Andie Thrams, designed and printed their poems on broadside editions.
The broadsides were on display at ArtSpace from April 26 through April 30. Andie observed that it was “an all-encompassing, fun, inspiring, and learning experience” for teachers and students alike. Bill Beveridge affirmed, “Not only did the kids get to learn about poetry from an amazing poet, but even better, I, too, got to learn so much more about teaching poetry.”
On the evening of April 30, the classes celebrated their publications with an open mic performance of their poems at ArtSpace. Twenty-five students bravely read their poems at the microphone to a packed room of teachers, former teachers, parents, grandparents, aunts, siblings and other students who had gathered to honor the beauty of the finished broadsides created during the Poem On! project, and the talent of the young people who created them.
Moira Magneson, EDAC’s program administrator, told the students, “You are making history tonight. This is the largest group of poets ever gathered together in one place in El Dorado County history!”
From a poet/teacher/coach perspective, Shawn said:
“My experience with the sixth-graders at Gold Trail Elementary was exhilarating. The students were full of energy and enthusiasm. They embraced the process of writing poetry both indoors and outdoors at the adjacent Wakamatsu Colony, and the process of making a broadside based on their poem. The project was a collaboration between teacher Bill Beveridge, the artist Andie Thrams, myself, and EDAC.
Throughout the arts residency we emphasized observation and imagination as our approach to writing poems and to making an original piece of art to accompany the poem—a broadside. Andie helped each student create a unique graphic element to accompany their poem. The results are simply amazing.”
“I’m reminded of the American mountaineer, Royal Robbins, who said, “Art is anything done with care and consciousness.” When I think about what this means, I see the sixth-graders working with such care and consciousness on Friday, especially, when they were making their limited editions and signing and numbering them.
I am so grateful to everyone involved in this collaboration for bringing their experience, wisdom, enthusiasm, and all-around good natures to the project.
Let’s do it again!”
Echoing that sentiment, and responding to the high energy and sense of excitement that filled ArtSpace during the “Poetry Lounge” finale, Deb Jensen, Executive Director of the El Dorado Arts Council, stated, ”The inauguration of our Poem On! program has been tremendous. The students’ engagement with the act of writing, their commitment to the typography and design of their beautiful broadside editions, and then their Tuesday night performance of their poems in front of a packed house at ArtSpace, seems to me to be the very best of a multidisciplinary arts experience. We can’t wait to bring this program—and the poets and artists—into other El Dorado County schools.”
In the spring of 2013 the El Dorado Arts Council invited poet Shawn Pittard and artist Andie Thrams to join in designing and implementing a pilot arts in education program, Poem On!. Arts Council Program Administrator, Moira Magneson facilitated the planning along with Gold Trail School 6th grade teacher Bill Beveridge to ensure that classroom learning expectations would be on target. Poem On!, an artist-in-residence program, was inaugurated during National Poetry Month in April. Poet Shawn, and artist Andie spent 5 days with students at Gold Trail School. Poem On! was funded entirely by donations from individuals in our community, and was made possible through EDAC’s Arts in Education program and through California Poets in the Schools.