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Ohio Northern graduate inspires her students to make the world better through art

By Art Hunter, Editor, The Clermont Sun
April—Students in art teacher Meggie (Schmidt) Bierkan’s classes at Bethel-Tate High School have applied their talents to making the world a better place.

Bierkan (BFA/graphic design, ’09) and her students have partnered with the Regional Storm Water Collaborative on a project designed to increase the use of rain barrels by increasing their appeal. Students in Bierkan’s class started with plain, drab, and otherwise unappealing barrels. Applying their talents—and layers expertly applied paint, sand, and other materials—to the nearly four-foot tall containers, they have created beautiful—and functional—works of art.

“The theme is ‘Save it for a Rainy Day’ to encourage usage,” Bierkan said. “I believe this will cause more people to use them.”

The barrels will be on display at the Cincinnati Zoo until April, when they will be auctioned off at the zoo’s annual gala.

There are only five schools included in the partnership, and Bethel-Tate was selected on the strength of the proposal submitted by Bierkan.

The students chose to paint zoo-themed scenes on the barrels. Some of the barrels featured exotic landscapes, others features animals found at the zoo. Each of the eight barrels was painted by a small group of students.

One group’s painting featured a pair of giraffes.

“We all liked the giraffes, so we decided to paint the zoo’s new baby giraffe, Lulu,” senior Taylor Robinson said.

While the barrels are on display at the zoo, visitors with paid admission or their zoo membership can visit the Go Green Garden to place their vote on the best painted rain barrel. A “People’s Choice Award” will be given to the artist with the most votes.

Meggie earned her BFA degree in graphic design from Ohio Northern in 2009. While a student at ONU, she earned a Petrillo award, was involved in Delta Zeta, the Arts & Sciences College Student Advisory Board, and served as co-president of the ONU student chapter of AIGA|The Professional Association for Design. In 2012 she completed a Master of Art in Visual Art Education from the University of Cincinnati. Meggie currently is an art teacher at Bethel-Tate High School located in Bethel, Ohio. She teaches a variety of courses including beginning art classes, mixed media, three-dimensional art, digital photography, painting and drawing. 

Originally designated as the School of Fine Arts and later the College of Fine Arts, the art & design program was first established as an independent academic unit at Ohio Northern in 1878, largely as an outgrowth of course work in engineering and architectural drawing. Today, Ohio Northern offers both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with majors in advertising design, art education, graphic design and studio arts with concentrations in two-dimensional, three-dimensional and pre-art therapy. The department of A&D holds memberships in national organizations such as the National Art Education Association, College Art Association, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education, AIGA: The Professional Association for Design, and the National Council on Education of Ceramic Arts. The department is recognized in the second and third editions of “Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers” as one of the best creative programs nationwide. For additional information about the department of art & design or the University’s 2012–13 Arts Exhibition Season, contact the department at 419.772.2160.

image: Ohio Northern graduate and Bethel-Tate high school art teacher, Meggie Bierken, picked up rain barrels for her students to paint. Her students turned eight barrels into works of art for the Cincinnati Zoo.