This spring, the Fouts Center for the Visual Arts is the site of a new arts program bringing bilingual first-graders from Edison Elementary School in Walla Walla to Whitman's campus.
Created by Associate Professor of Art Nicole Pietrantoni, the program teaches first-graders how to make one-of-a-kind art prints while interacting with Whitman students from the First Generation/Working Class Club and Club Latinx.
The first art classes were held on April 12, with more scheduled for April 19.
During each 50-minute class, Pietrantoni shows the first-graders around the printmaking studio, followed by an inking and printing demonstration by the Whitman students. Then the children get their hands dirty as they play with a rainbow of acrylic paints, stencils and ribbons. Once the schoolchildren have created their masterpiece, the Whitties assist them in making the print.
Pietrantoni has previously led arts-based community-outreach projects including the Dia de los Muertos festival. Wanting to establish a new program that connects with the youngest members of the Walla Walla community, she contacted Victor Vergara, director of bilingual programs and Latino outreach at Walla Walla Public Schools.
"He's a real big advocate of the arts, and he was really excited by the idea of offering more art opportunities for kids and giving them the experience just being on the college's campus," she said.
Vergara suggested that the program not only give the first-graders an opportunity to create art, but also the experience of being around college students - and possibly spark the idea that they, too, can attend college.
"A lot of students at Edison are potentially the first in their families to go to college," Pietrantoni said. "Dr. Vergara really wanted for there to be college students who look like them in the classroom. That's how those the clubs got involved."
Pietrantoni is an advisor to students in the First Generation/Working Class Club. She enlisted their help and that of Club Latinx to assist with the printmaking.
"I told all the volunteer students that your goal is to be a supportive, caring adult who can serve as a mentor for the day," she said.
Pietrantoni would like to see the program beomce part of the school's curriculum and boost the children's creativity, as well as create an avenue for the communities of Walla Walla and Whitman to come together.
"I think it's really important that we go out into the community," Pietrantoni said. "We have so many resources at Whitman and we have to do more to share those and let the community know there isn't a bubble, that it can be permeated. We can flow both ways."