Instructor encourages children to learn art, culture

LET'S MAKE POTS, KIDS—Chris Turk, instructor of ceramic art, teaches the children how to make pots by using the pottery wheel. CN/ Bryan Pedroza
By Bryan Pedroza

Second and third graders from Open Magnet Charter School visited the East Los Angeles College Art Department on Monday for an outreach ceramics event.

ELAC art instructor Chris Turk hosted this event.  He has been hosting outreach art programs for young children for 10 years, mostly with local schools. Turk infused his art activity with a history lesson.  The students learned about the different cultures that have immigrated from parts of Europe and Asia to the United States by boat.

The ELAC ceramics students created clay boats, similar to arks, for the children to decorate. “Thinking about what children would actually take on these oversea voyages at the time of these migrations is very compelling,” Turk said.

Prior to their visit to ELAC, the children made clay figures symbolizing what they would take if they ever faced a great migration.  These figures represented possessions that they wanted to take, but were not necessities. The creations made by the students were in the shapes of toys, animal designs and figurines.

The motifs are to be placed inside the five boats that the children decorated. The boats will then be placed on top of each other like a  totem pole. Turk, along with the help of his ceramics class will assemble the boats, and then send them back to the school. The students will participate in an art show and display their completed totem boats.

While teaching the students how to craft ceramic pieces, Turk has always tried to emphasize the history behind it.  “What they (the children) are doing is carrying on an age-old tradition,” Turk said.

The kids were able to make pinch pots and got a demonstration on the spinning wheel, but the most important thing Turk wanted for the young children was for them to get into a college campus and get them thinking about going to college. Turk’s outreach program focuses on encouraging young minds to think about higher education. “There’s very few things in life that nobody can take away from you. Education is one of those things.  A good education is important because it offers them choices. It’s very important that they (the children) actually visit colleges and universities so they can see that higher education is obtainable, and it is within their reach,” Turk said.

Turk thought it would be interesting to have the children bring motifs and patterns to decorate and paint the boats with, based on the cultures they have been learning about.

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