Art can carry students long way

Throughout the day and evening children and adults will be seen out and about, clad in a wide variety of costumes. It is, of course, Halloween, a holiday with a number of traditions: “trick or treating;” carving pumpkins into Jack o’ Lanterns; bobbing for apples; eating candied corn and caramel apples; and more.

Celebrations at this time of year have been around for thousands of years, and many of the current associated traditions are thought to have come from European Celtic-speaking countries.
The word “Halloween” was in fact originally “Hallowe’en” or, hallowed eve, meaning holy eve, the night before All Hallows’ Day, now known as All Saints’ Day. The practice of dressing in disguise and
going door-to-door “trick or treating” is derived from medieval traditions of “mumming” or “souling.”

In the southwest, with its Hispanic roots, there is yet another flavor. The “Dia de Los Muertos” — literally, Day of the Dead — is celebrated Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 (All Saints’ Day). This is a time when loved ones who have passed on are remembered and their lives celebrated. This holiday, believed to have been celebrated for thousands of years by the Aztecs during late July and early August, was shifted to the current dates under the influence of the Spaniards.

An art class at our new Gattis Middle School chose the “Dia de Los Muertos” as a seasonal topic to provide some cross-cultural and cross-curricular exposure to students. Gina Davis, veteran teacher of twenty years, proudly showed off her students’ art work recently, which was displayed on giant bulletin-boarded walls outside her classroom.

“We began with chalk drawings, then marker drawings; then, we will move to watercolor and acrylic art pieces. That way students will have touched on different media with the same genre,” Davis said.

Davis had two of her students explain about the Dia de Los Muertos. Seventh grader Peyton Smith shared the history of this holiday articulately, and described her interest in the foods associated with the holiday, like the brightly painted sugar treats in the shape of a skull. Another student, Brandon Quay, who used to live in Mexico, described first hand the celebrations. He recalled the  displays set up with all the favorite things of the loved ones who had died; for example, the favorite food and drinks next to the deceased’s photograph. Family members would remember the departed and share fond memories and funny stories about the departed loved ones.

This is one of the many art projects Davis’ students will be working on throughout the year. “We’re working towards a big Spring Fling when parents will come and view all the work we have been doing.”

Davis wrapped up our visit with her views on the importance of art: “Creativity can carry students through life. It builds students’ confidence, and someone who can think out of the box can develop new things.”

Not only that, but as Picasso noted, “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the instructional technology coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at cindy.kleyn-kennedy@clovis-schools.org