Week spotlights art in schools

An area elementary school participated Monday in a nationwide event honoring arts education in the classroom.
Students at Balls Creek Elementary School in Newton learned about different art forms, from gourd making to architecture, to kick off National Arts in Education week.
“I wanted to show students there is more to art than drawing and painting,” said Alison Willard, Balls Creek Elementary art teacher, who organized the event.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation July 26 designating Sept. 12-18 as National Arts in Education week, which is designed to honor all art forms in education.
According to the resolution, “Arts education, comprising a rich array of disciplines, including dance, music, theatre, media arts, literature, design and visual arts, is a core academic subject and an essential element of a complete and balanced education for all students.”
Various local artists spoke with students from all grade levels about their respective art forms and what inspires them to continue creating every day.
“Be sure to look for nature in art,” said Margaret Sparkman, also known as The Gourd Lady, who brought dozens of her handcrafted art pieces for students to enjoy. “Have a hobby, it’s good for when you get older.”
Sparkman uses gourds and other natural elements to make animals and other characters.
“Who would have ever dreamed my hobby would get me on national TV and have a building named after me?” she said. “I’m very proud of that.”
Bud Foster, who makes his own stringed instruments, taught Balls Creek Elementary students about the creative process behind designing dulcimers, violins and banjos.
“It all comes from nature,” he said. “It’s woods that I cut; some of it comes from Catawba County, and some of it comes from all around the world.”
Foster steams the wood until it is pliable enough to bend into curved shapes for his instruments. He started making instruments about 10 years ago when he was caring for his mother, who had Alzheimer’s.
“It’s important that the kids come to see culture that originates in Catawba County,” Foster said. “If they get into their heart that they want to do it, they can.”
Jewelry maker and designer Ana Christina Godoy spoke with Balls Creek Elementary students about how she transforms gold and precious stones into wearable art.
“(Jewelry stores) make the same chain 1,000 times, but when it’s an art place, it’s one at a time,” she said. “It’s handmade – that’s what makes it art, and that’s what makes it special.”
Godoy sketches jewelry designs for her clients before making the real thing. Once the designs are approved, she uses a blowtorch to heat the metal and bend it into the shape she wants.
After students heard artists speak about their crafts, they had the opportunity to ask questions and view each designer’s creations.