GCAC's Artist-in-Schools Program:  Artist Preview Night, September 14

Artist Preview Night gives central Ohio educators, school administrators, parent-teacher association members and advocates of arts education an opportunity to meet with and experience the artists who take part in GCAC's Artists-in-Schools program.

The 2011 Artist Preview Night will be held on Wednesday, September 14 from 4-7 p.m. at the Arts IMPACT Middle School (AIMS) 680 Jack Gibbs Blvd (map). The event is free and will showcase the talents of the artists participating in the Artists-in-Schools program.

Artists-in-Schools links professional artists and arts groups not only with K-12 schools, but also parks and recreation centers, senior facilities, correctional facilities, hospitals, libraries, other community centers, as well as private sector businesses, organizations and individuals. Artist services may include performances, lectures, workshops, master classes, readings and multi-disciplinary experiences. Artist Preview Night will feature performances and presentations from storytellers, painters, dancers, musicians, actors and other artists.

Artists-in-Schools is one of GCAC's longest running programs and has served hundreds of thousands of people of all ages over the last 30 years.  The Artists-in-Schools experience is intended to complement, rather than replace, existing arts education programs.

GCAC's Artists-in-Schools rosters features more than 90 artists who specialize in a broad range of disciplines from creative writing and storytelling to dance, music and the visual arts.

GCAC recently recruited two new additions to the Arists-in-Schools roster:  visual artist Helma Groot and songwriter/musician Hal Walker.

Helma Groot was born in the Netherlands. Her father was a chemical engineer and they traveled and lived around the world because of his career. Groot attended high school in Indonesia, Germany and Michigan. She graduated magna cum laude from the Columbus College of Art and Design, then studied furniture making in Amsterdam before returning to Columbus. Groot is highly active in the Columbus art scene. She is a founding member of CAW, Creative Arts of Women, and has led summer art programs at Columbus Academy. Her work is featured locally in the Short North, and in galleries in Worthington, Dublin, Bexley and New Albany.

Groot, who is known locally for her fabric mobiles ("grootmobiles"), said she's known since about age 13 or 14 that she wanted to be an artist and was particularly influenced by an American art teacher who taught batik techniques at an Indonesian high school, but says she never intended on becoming an art teacher herself.

"I sort of stumbled upon teaching when I got a job working for the Columbus Academy's summer camp," said Groot. "I found that I truly enjoyed it. I always knew I wanted a career as an artist. I never would have thought I'd be so involved with teaching and loving it so much."

Groot has had a number of teaching gigs, including teaching a semester at Bexley High School that resulted in a project with the students permanently installing a mobile that they had created in her class.

For GCAC's Artists-in-Schools program, Groot's art projects for students will include soft sculpture pieces created out of recycled fabrics that are donated or that she finds in thrift stores. The pieces can be single works or combined to create mobiles.  Be sure to check out Groot's work at CAW's upcoming show, Strands, opening at the Columbus Metropolitan Library's Carnegie Gallery on September 8.

Hal Walker, from Kent, Ohio, said he's been a musician as long as he can remember.

"I started piano lessons when I was 10 years old.  I sang in choir.  But I never imagined I could be a pro musician," said Walker.

While studying history at Northwestern University in Chicago, Walker said he spent most of his free time learning to play guitar and harmonica and writing songs. Soon after graduating, Walker started playing and singing at open mics around Cleveland.  Then a poet friend who was involved int he Ohio Arts Council's artists in schools program invited Walker along to write songs with him.

"Soon after, I applied to work in schools and I've been doing it for about 15 years now," said Walker.  "It's a natural fit for me; love collaborating with students of all ages. I have a good rapport with children; I can communicate with music very well."

Walker calls himself a "musical explorer and scientist of sound," reflecting his sometimes scientific approach and exploration of the world's many cultures through music. 

"The music that I play is really attractive to young people," said Walker.  "I use music instruments that make cool sounds and fit right in your pocket.  Kids love that." 

Walker teaches using instruments like ancient hand whistles and a pocket-sized rhythm instrument called banakulas from West Africa.

Walker will bring many years of teaching experience to GCAC's Artists-in-Schools program. Walker is an accomplished singer/songwriter.  Click here to listen to his song Home in Ohio.  To learn more about Walker, go to  www.halwalkermusic.com.

Artists-in-Schools is generously supported by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners. 

Image:  Artists-in-Schools artist Daniel Colvin leads a hands-on art project with students creating a back-drop for a school play with paper pulp.

Click here for more information on the 2011 Artist Preview Night, or contact Oulanje Regan at 614-221-8625 or oregan@gcac.org.

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