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Arts Big art for small people 

Howard preschool gets a real art gallery

“Their excitement is contagious,” says Wilma Sosa, principal of Howard Early Education Center in Alamo Heights. The light, happy voices of children sail through the hallways as they sing the letters of new words. At Howard, an autonomous campus for kindergarten, pre-K, and other early-development programs, days are filled with learning the alphabet, concepts of generosity and thankfulness, and other fundamentals. The faux H-E-B store in one of the activity rooms encourages children to use their imaginations by role playing—rotating between cashier, shopper, and stocker. They also learn language development, math and measuring, and conflict resolution. “`Howard` is a place to show them how to be independent,” says Sosa.

From front: ArtSA director Darryl Mix, ArtSA gallery owner Steve Markey, and artist Chris Hardy mount paintings on a wall at Howard Elementary School. (Photos by Mark Greenberg)

This year, Howard eagerly adopted a new art curriculum intended to imbue the children’s experience with creativity, too. “Things have changed, since we focus on academics, but this will help with that,” says Sosa. “This recognizes that some children learn in different ways.” `See related story, “Kindergarten college,” November 24-30, 2005.`

To complement the new curriculum, Art SA Director and Curator Darryl Mix is installing an art space called “Kindergarten Gallery” that will show the work of early and mid-career contemporary artists from San Antonio and South Texas. The first show, Stripes, features work by Louis Treviño and Chris Hardy.

The project is “about the artists and their work and children’s early exposure to art,” says Mix. The gallery will present art that is engaging and accessible for children, but not tailored specifically to kids. Treviño’s work, for instance, consists of large canvases with gradated bars of color that resemble fluorescent lights. “When I first approached Mrs. Sosa with the idea, I wasn’t sure how she would react,” says Mix. “But she was all for it.”

Sosa says that teachers will use the gallery as another classroom for teaching art concepts using age-appropriate methods, including children’s books such as Elmer the Multi-Colored Patchwork Elephant by David McKee. During the Current’s visit, Mrs. Frierson’s class discussed a painting. “To put it in kindergarten language, I told them to focus on line and color,” explains Frierson, an active member of the art committee who has supported the gallery since its inception.

The artwork will be hung at the kids’ eye level so the students can view it as adults would. The learning experience is three-fold, believes Sosa: They will see the art and resist the urge to touch, employing temperance. Understanding line and form will cultivate visual appreciation. Early exposure to art and the gallery will encourage future participation in and support for culture. Says Sosa, “Art should be available to children.”

By Francesca Camillo

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