The Hippo


Aug 20, 2019








Dhahiro Osman. Kelly Sennott photo.

See “Seeing Me”

Where: Millyard Museum, 200 Bedford St., No. 103, Manchester
When: On view through  May 16; reception Thursday, April 23, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Art lessons
SEPIA and BRINGIT! kids produce “Seeing Me”

By Kelly Sennott

If you take away anything bad about public school art class — grades, short duration, shoddy materials — and add in some young, hip teachers, you’ve got the gist of the New Hampshire Institute of Art’s SEPIA (Student Enrichment Program in the Arts) program.

For the past two months, NHIA has been luring Manchester youth to the Lowell Street Building basement studio for once-a-week, two-hour after-school art classes taught by art education degree candidates. All the kids’ work — photography, papier mache, wire and clay sculpture, collage, canvas paintings — have themes of identity and will be on view at the Millyard Museum starting this Thursday, with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. that day. It comprises more than 150 art pieces.
The youth are from Manchester middle and high schools and many are members of refugee, immigrant or lower-income families, or from BRINGIT! (Bringing Refugees, Immigrants and Neighbors Gently Into Tomorrow). 
NHIA faculty member Betty Roy, who oversees SEPIA lessons, thinks it’s a win for both the public school and NHIA students.
“[The NHIA students] get to work with a population that is, for the most part, not speaking English as their first language,” Roy said. “They get exposure to a number of cultures, languages, and they have to find ways to get their point across by somehow teaching more visually than auditorily.”
The art students designed the lesson plans and mentored the kids in small groups and, as a result, got to know them very well. They learned their kids’ learning styles, strengths and struggles and were able to create quite personal lessons. For the kids, it’s also just more fun than art class at school.
“There’s no expectation. They’re not graded on this. … And we let them think out of the box sometimes,” Roy said. “One of the pieces that really amazes me is that students who wouldn’t be caught dead talking in school are working on collaborative pieces together.”
During a recent trip to the classroom one Thursday afternoon, there was a relaxed yet focused air. In one corner, the kids were making clay tiles about things they love — writing, music, family — and in another, they illustrated their idea of paradise with pastel paint.
“A lot of my art focuses on landscape. I wanted to think of something more individual to the student,” said Thomas Dacey, a fine arts major who was facilitating this project.
By the door, they built papier mache bowls and vases plastered with their hopes and dreams in words. This was the messiest corner; the papier mache went on blown-up balloons that would be popped when dry. One girl’s sculpture was in the shape of a yellow star bowl with the word “Happiness” strewn across. 
“We’ve been doing a lot of 2D self-portraiture projects based on life in the present time. I thought we’d freshen it up by doing something based on the future,” Brittany Torres, a senior fine arts major leading the papier mache group, said as she slapped another strip of gooey newspaper atop her balloon.
Dhahiro Osman said she returned for a second year of art because she likes the materials and the amount of time they have to create. 
“I like the teachers, and I think it’s fun,” she said. “You also get more time to do it.”
At the center of the room, kids were snipping and folding wires to create animals. Alyssa Boutin, a senior and fine arts major, led this group. The kids finished a bit earlier than the rest — wire sculptures aren’t quite as messy as papier mache ones — but they continued to create from the materials at hand.
“I think they’re more willing to experiment with things because it’s not a school lesson,” Boutin said. “I love the group atmosphere, too. … At the beginning, we asked them what they wanted us to integrate in. They said sculpture and photography. They don’t usually do big 3D stuff in school.”
Other projects have included bookmaking, watercolor, cardboard sculpture and Jackson Pollock drip-style projects. All will be on view at the Millyard Museum exhibition through May 16. 
As seen in the April 23, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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