“CAC provides a place, whether it be in person or virtual, for preservice educators, professors and community members to share in the joy of creating,” Bandli said.
In 2019-20, about 25 children attended their classes each week at the University Library, until the campus closed in March 2020 because of COVID-19. For the remainder of the spring semester, Bandli and Bonlander needed to prepare virtual classes. They created prerecorded lessons, which they posted on AIM’s Facebook page.
“We were scared what would become of CAC once we went virtual. We realized we were not going to get to see the kids interact in the artmaking process, which was such a huge part of why CAC was amazing,” Bonlander said.
For the 2020-21 school year, they proposed a synchronous virtual option to art education Program Director Ann Oberding and Assistant Professor Tami Weiss, executive director of AIM. Classes met virtually in Microsoft Teams, with 15 to 20 children attending each week. Bandli and Bonlander coordinated the pick-up of free art kits for registrants at the beginning of each semester.
Children were instructed on how to create collages, acrylic paintings, drawings and other projects following a theme. This year’s theme was Artists of the Past, Present and Future, which focused on historical and contemporary artists. The club has ended for the school year and will begin again in September when families can register on the AIM website.
Casey Olson loves seeing her daughter Sophia’s artwork expand and develop over the course of the year. “When the class is over each week, she runs out of her room to excitedly inform me all about the artist of the night and the techniques they used. The class has been a great outlet for her to collaborate with other kids who also enjoy art,” Olson said.
Bandli and Bonlander stress that the children are the artists of the future and included artistic choices for them to express themselves. Coordinating CAC has helped them learn from the children and about themselves as educators.
Deanna Schultz, interim associate dean of the College of Education, Hospitality, Health and Human Sciences, was impressed by what the art education students accomplished virtually this past year. “It’s a great example of being innovative in teaching something that is so hands-on,” she said.
Building community through art experiences
Lead CAC instructors serve as student mentors for first-year students in the Art Education Introductory course as they teach for the first time in the art club.
“In this way, Children's Art Club is really special,” Oberding said. “We believe support right from the beginning of their experience at Stout is what sets us apart from other programs, as well as joining with the rest of our polytechnic tenants.”
As a mentor, Bonlander enjoys aiding in the education of future educators. “Students helping other students and creating a sense of solidarity is vital to being successful within the program and feeling as if you are a part of a community,” she said.
Bonlander loves the interactions she sees at CAC between the instructors and children. “Oftentimes, CAC is the first teaching experience art education students have. Seeing them feel comfortable and starting conversations with children always makes my heart warm,” she said. “The relationships that I have built with students over the past two years is the exact reason why I want to be a teacher.”
Bailey Iwen is the incoming CAC coordinator. She wants to help children grow their knowledge and skills and help them see the world as a better place. She’s preparing different themes for new projects, as well as traditional styles for building art skills.
“Teaching art is so much more than crafts and projects. It is preparing future generations to think creatively, see reality in its rawest form and engage with the wonders of the world,” she said. “Children’s Art Club provides such a wholesome opportunity for students to partake in, learning about art and creating together. I couldn’t help but be a part of it.”
Iwen, a sophomore from Merrill, choose UW-Stout’s art education program because her high school art teacher was an alum.
“I’m grateful for the education she provided me. I want to return the favor to students of my own someday. I figured the best way to start would be earning the most similar education,” she said.
PAINT internship program
Another program made possible through AIM is the Program for Arts Integration for New Teachers. PAINT offers art education students internships to teach arts-based classes in the Menomonie community.