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New art space is perfect for inspiring students

By the time Betsy Murphy got to her student-free planning period in the late morning at the Bruno M. Ponterio Ridge Street School, she had already taught three enthusiastic art classes. While students had cleaned up at the end of their classes, there were bits of paper on the floor, some paint smeared on the tables and a few bits of glue too.


“Your hands are messy,” one student had told her as she passed out pieces of colored paper to a kindergarten class earlier. Two girls painting

“You’re right, because I am an art teacher,” Ms. Murphy told the student.


Messes are all part of the creative process. The teachers’ hands were covered in clay from a previous lesson with second graders who were making clay owls. She even has a sign hanging in her classroom that says, “You must make marks, messes, mistakes, and memories EVERYDAY.”


“We are coming back to a brand-new art room,” Ms. Murphy said seated at one of the large art tables referring to the construction at the school. “This is such a wonderful accomplishment to be in this wonderful studio space. It’s the perfect room for kids to create.”


Boy holds up his paintingThe new space has four large tables with stools, it’s the place where students sit to do their work. One wall is all storage space, another has counters for letting work dry or rest for when students come back to class on another day. The room is bright, with multiple sinks and a kiln which is housed in an adjoining space, which Ms. Murphy is “fired up” about and can’t wait to use.


“It’s a bright space with plenty of resources and materials and technology is incorporated,” she said.


In addition, just outside of the room are several glass enclosed display cases. It is here that students’ work is showcased for the entire school to see.


Ms. Murphy has been an art teacher for 30 years, teaching at RSS for the past 20. She also teaches art education at Manhattanville. Her goal in teaching is to share her passion for art with her students.


“Art fosters creativity and problem solving,” she said. “Which all change our world.”


“The skills that are introduced in an elementary art program develop confidence and independence,” she continued. “I want students to develop an appreciation for art. I am lucky enough to introduce them to that and how to make it.”


One second grade class was making clay owls on this day, using clay and water to shape their designs. They all got a little messy as they added eyes to their work.


“I never knew owls could have eyebrows,” one student said.


“Mine looks so weird,” announced another.


Both points are perfect for the art room as Ms. Murphy encouraged them to use their imaginations. Girl working on her clay project


“You have to have confidence that it will grow into a beautiful piece of art,” she told the budding artists.


As Talia V. molded her clay she said “it feels good to do art.”


“I like that we can do details,” she continued.


Sitting at another table Jacob O. said he especially likes drawing.


“But when I do art class, I have the materials to do other things,” he said.


During a kindergarten class students carefully cut out art tool designs, such as paint brushes, markers and crayons, and glued them to a piece of colored paper. They then drew different types of lines, from squiggles to dashes, extending from the different tools.


“I like to make things,” Riley C. said about what she likes about art class as she carefully cut out a paint brush. “We make rainbow ice creams.”


After wrestling themselves into smocks, a group of first graders settled at their tables. Their lesson on this day was to paint a background and later they would add Blue Dog, a popular yellow eyed, blue dog by writer and illustrator George Rodrigue, to their work.


Student Jack K. said he decided to paint random colors for his background.

“Then we get to paint blue dog,” he said excitedly.


“The Blue Dog background will be a sunset,” Roma D. said of her painting, adding that she likes art class because “art is fun.”


When Harrison F. was asked what he liked about art class, he did not hesitate, “Everything!” he said, as he painted colorful lines on his paper.


As students cleaned up after their painting session one student announced, “I want to be an artist when I grow up,” while another thanked Ms. Murphy for teaching them.


“I love the elementary art class energy,” Ms. Murphy said after the students had filed out of her classroom. “There is a positive energy in this classroom that supports each other and the friendships they make in this classroom.”


Teaching art at the elementary level is the first-time students are able to use an artistic voice, the teacher said.


“We have a lot of fun and smiles in here,” Ms. Murphy noted.