CANNON BEACH — “I want to see your brain think,” said instructor Linda Burke to her students contemplating how to decorate their piñatas.

“You are the creator. Pretend you had nothing and you had to create your own universe.”

With strips of orange, yellow and green construction paper, pipe cleaners, beads, crayons and other decorative items, the students went to work, their imaginations given permission to soar.

The creative juices flowed all last week at Cannon Beach Elementary School, where the arts were celebrated. Artists who live and work in the area brought their tools and enthusiasm to the classrooms to give students hands-on experiences.

Their work will be displayed during a “Celebration of the Arts” show, beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Performances of hula, martial arts, songs and dances start at 6:30 p.m. and will go to 7 p.m. in the school gymnasium.

Although no one knows exactly how long Cannon Beach students have celebrated the arts, the program is more than 20 years old, said Suzy Roehr, a teacher and organizer of this year’s celebration. Parent Buffy Simmons assisted her.

Students spend two hours a day two days during the week working with artists.

“The week is meant to give students a different experience than they would have during a usual day in the classrooms,” Roehr said. “They are in smaller groups and work with materials and do art they wouldn’t normally do.”

The experience becomes a learning situation for both artists and students. A student told Burke that her rectangular piñata could look like a pencil. It was a simple idea that hadn’t occurred to Burke.

“We overlook the idea of simplicity,” Burke said. “When they are touching, feeling and experimenting with materials, who knows what they will come up with?”

In another room, Elly Henderson, of Arch Cape, worked with Tyler Smith, 8, on a voodoo doll head. Around her were students rummaging through piles of clothes on the tables and floor.

“This is the room the clothes threw up in,” said Henderson, laughing.

The class, called “Wearable Art,” lets students turn an otherwise worn out piece of clothing into something useful.

“They’re taking clothes out of the bags, looking at them and finding that they like the tags, the patterns or something,” Henderson said.

They fabricated purses, pockets, wallets, pillows and – among the most popular items – Voodoo dolls.

“At the art show we always do a fashion show,” said Henderson, who has offered the class for eight years.

Students may display purses crafted from five different fabrics, a belt composed of a strip from a pair of old jeans or a mask cut from a stocking cap.

Anya Bannon, 10, took a red curtain and, with the help of Sarah Nagle, sewed it into a dress, reminiscent of a scene from “Gone With the Wind.”

As she pulled the dress over her head, Anya, who wants to be a fashion designer when she’s older, called the class “really fun.”

“It’s a great thing that we can use clothes that people couldn’t use,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mike Stanley, who operates a bike shop in Cannon Beach during the day, worked with students in making clay masks. Before opening his shop, Stanley had an earlier career as medical illustrator and took sculpture classes at Portland State University.

He has participated in the Celebration of the Arts for 18 years.

Students shaped slabs of clay, added clay eyes and pieces of clay hair. Sam Henderson, 11, created a wolf with a mouth full of teeth, while Henry Garvin, 9, fashioned something quite different.

“I thought of Pokemon and put a goatee on it. It was a psychic Pokemon,” he said.

While some students were working with clay, those in Hazel Schlesinger’s class tried their hands at watercolors.

On the first day of the two-day class, they learned the jargon: “radial lines,” “dimension,” “overlapping.” By painting fruit and vegetables in black and white first and adding colors and shading later, they learned how to paint in values.

On the second day, the students copied photos of a field of flowers in Holland.

“I think every single one is a budding artist,” said Schlesinger, who once taught fourth and fifth grade and art at Cannon Beach Elementary and now lives in Lake Oswego. “There are two or three Monets here.”

Schlesinger was assisted by her sister, Wanda Moore, of Manzanita, who recently retired as a special education teacher at Cannon Beach Elementary after 32 years.

“My sister and I do this every year,” Schlesinger said.

As she placed one of the students’ paintings on a stand, Schlesinger said she was pleased with what they could produce in less than two hours.

“The paintings are bright and impressionistic,” she said. “I think the kids are surprised at what they can do.”

Over at Bruce’s Candy Kitchen, students were learning about edible art. On the first day, they learned how to make chocolate. On the second day, they brought a favorite toy to the kitchen, and candy-maker Brian Taylor helped them make a mold of it.

While some pressed a toy starfish or light saber into brown sugar, then poured chocolate into the impression, one student made an impression of his hand; another pressed his face into the brown sugar.

“It’s the first time anybody has asked to make a mold of his face,” Taylor said.

The show Wednesday night also will feature a performance put on by those in Patrick Lathrop’s theater class. Lathrop is the educational coordinator at Coaster Theatre.

After creating paper masks of cat faces and braiding colored yarn to use as tails, students memorized poems and dances about cats, ranging from the cats of Kilkenny, Ireland, to the cats in the “Kingdom of Catsenstein” who were too important to carry their own tails.

The idea for the week seemed natural in a community of artists, Roehr said. Teachers and students alike look forward to it every year.

“It’s one of the most memorable experiences students have when they attend Cannon Beach Elementary,” she said.

   

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