By Douglas Morino Staff Writer | Daily Breeze
Grace Ocular works on an afterschool art project at Carson High School. (By Brad Graverson Staff Photographer)
2/15/2010 -- On a recent afternoon, a group of Carson High School students stuck around after the final bell rang, opting to trade an hour or two in front of television screens or at fast-food hangouts for the familiar confines of the classroom.
They spent the rest of the day focused on their work, carefully applying thick black ink on paper as the rain poured down outside.
For one day at least, art was alive and well in the classroom, as students learned simple printmaking techniques under the instruction of professional artists.
The after-school class, part of a series of 16 workshops, is a collaborative project by the art gallery at California State University, Dominguez Hills and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Carson. Funding for the sessions was secured through a grant from the Carson Fine Arts and Historical Commission.
The classes coincided with the recent "60 x 60: Prints from the Purdue University Collection" art exhibit at the Dominguez Hills campus and aim to give students an opportunity for self-expression, as art and music offerings get cut from public schools.
"As budgets get tanked, the arts go first," said Jim Keville, an assistant art professor at Dominguez Hills who helps oversee the workshops.
The Los Angeles Unified School District slashed $10 million from arts funding this school year. Grappling with a $470 million shortfall, LAUSD board members have proposed cutting half the district's elementary school art specialists for the 2010-11 school year, a move that would save the district $14.9 million. [smf: The remainder of the elementary arts teachers (”specialists”) would be eliminated in the following year.]
"With all the funding cuts, it's important to continue to provide quality programs," said Veronica Jimenez, director of operations of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Carson. "Art classes promote creativity and artistic ability. If students aren't exposed to it, often they don't know they have a skill or a niche to pursue."
The art classes are critical because they allow students to use their free time productively, Keville said.
"This gives them something to do after school instead of being bored and getting into trouble," he said.
As she worked on a print, Sylvia Mayoral, 16, said the workshop was her only access to art during the day.
Students like Sylvia have been eager to participate in the workshops, often choosing to spend hours after school on their projects, said art teacher Linda Jo Russell. The enthusiasm seems to be spreading.
"I've had so much fun and if I'm having fun, they must be," Russell said. "They don't want to stop."