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Art Education graduate continues campaign effort to improve children’s lives

By Naj Wikoff, Lake Placid News
February—Art can be a transformative experience and communicate important social issues in our communities. For Ohio Northern University graduate, Anne Rickard (BA ’82) not only teaches her students the elements and principles of art, but also the positive impact art can create.

Along Main Street in Lake Placid and Route 86 in Wilmington is a series of banners featuring self-portraits of children of these two communities. The banners exclaim, “Talk to Us,” a request for adults to engage in conversations with the children of our communities.

These banners are an extension of the CYC (Connecting Youth and Communities of Lake Placid and Wilmington) “I Matter” campaign, an ongoing effort to improve the lives of our children, to help reduce their use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, reduce violence and bullying, enhance youth’s self-esteem, create more opportunities for their civic engagement, and most especially strengthen the connections between young people and adults—youth and the community at large.

During the last 10 years, there has been a rich and delightful collaboration between CYC with Lake Placid Central and Northwood school art teachers, the directors of the Shipman and Wilmington Youth centers, the managers and marketing directors at Whiteface Ski Center, CYC staff, board and volunteers, and many others.

Outcomes have included other banners over Main Street, posters still found on many office walls and store windows, portraits of Olympians exhibited at the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, murals at the Shipman and Wilmington Youth Centers, and Whiteface Ski Center with another in progress.

The banners now hanging along the streets feature our youths' messages about their priorities and lifestyles: “We want to do our best,” “We want to be heard,” “We want a healthy life,” “We want to be involved” and “We want to share our ideas.”

“This is an ongoing project that we have been doing with the school for the last five or six years,”  said Mary Dietrich, president of CYC. “We collaborate with the arts classes. Part of the curriculum is for the kids to draw self-images of themselves, images that represent who they are. Students do that, and CYC attaches a message and we turn them into posters and this year banners. We had them hanging in the school all last year, and people may have noticed that they are now hanging in the communities of Lake Placid and Wilmington.”

“The number one message is the most important influence in a child’s life are their parents, and so the message is to talk with the children,” said Dietrich. “See what they are feeling about the issues that they are facing. Our focus forever is to reduce underage drinking and drug abuse. We think the best way to combat that is to create a positive connection between the youth and the community, to help the school create a more positive school climate, and to deal with wellness issues, mental and physical.”

“I hope to achieve visibility with the banners,” said CYC director Tina Clark. “I hope to achieve recognition for students who put such hard work into it, and I hope to send a subtle message that the voices of youth should come across loud and clear in many different ways. The biggest reaction that I have had to these banners is the loss of them in the school. People are really missing them. They created a warm environment. They helped make the school an even more friendly and inviting place. They featured all these familiar and friendly faces, and without them being here it's a little different. People who are not connected with the school are curious about them as they catch your eye.”

“I’ve seen my banner," said Rachel, one of the students who created a self-portrait. “It’s hanging in Wilmington along towards Jay. As it is not in the center of town, I didn’t notice it at first. I actually saw a friend’s portrait first. I think the project is a nice way to get people involved. I think it surprised a few people to find them gone from the school and hanging along the streets. The school seems a bit empty without them. I think to banners bring our topics up. Our parents and other adults see it, they read it, and it gets you thinking sometimes.”

“It’s kind of cool having my portrait up,” said Emily. “My friends liked it. They thought it was pretty cool having it up in the school. Its purpose is to get awareness out there and to let kids know they can find outlets other than teachers and parents. I think it has helped stimulate conversations. Even some who read the messages jokingly still have them in the back of their head.”

“I saw my banner up on Main Street,” said Scott. “My friends seem to like it a lot. It was one of my better self-portraits. People were talking a lot about the banners when they were in the school. I heard people talking about the banners in Stewart’s. I think it is a good idea to get adults and kids talking. Some of my friends have ideas that I really liked but often go unnoticed.”

“The banner project is positive in any way you look at it,” said Lake Placid High School art teacher Anne Rickard. “It ties the community in with the arts that are happening in the school. I think it is something that makes the parents aware that they are a huge part of what happens to their child even in the teenage years and that they still have a way to guide their kids in ways that they may not realize. It’s also important because it let’s the kids know that the community cares about them.”

“I’d like to get involved in another project like this,’ said her student Gillian.

Anne has taught art courses for the past 24 years in the Lake Placid school district. She teaches drawing, painting, advanced placement art drawing, studio in art and eighth grade art. This past year, she was honored by the New York State Art Teachers Association (NYSATA) as their 2008 Art Teacher of the Year. In 2007, Anne was honored as regional art teacher of the year and qualified for consideration as this year’s state teacher of the year honors.

Anne earned her bachelors degree from Ohio Northern University and then received her master’s degree from Plattsburgh State. Recently, she had an art educator’s fellowship with Maine College of Art in Portland to study drawing and painting. She’s also attended the School of Art Institute of Chicago and the Kansas City Art Institute.

The art education major at ONU is an intensive full-time teacher preparation program that enables students to earn a PreK-12 licensure as a teacher. ONU’s program is designed to prepare its candidates to be not only accomplished art educators, but also articulate advocates for the role of art in PreK-12 education. The curriculum involves partnerships with public schools and is designed so that students come to understand educational theory through personal experience in authentic teaching situations. For instance, students at Ohio Northern plan and teach a group of middle school students participating in the Saturday Morning Arts (SMArts) program. Also, ONU teacher candidates complete 12 weeks of student teaching experiences in an elementary public school and in a secondary public school.

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 “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 2014–15 Arts Exhibition Season, contact the department at 419.772.2160.