Teaching Artist Janis Doukakis (at right) has a saying about art. It’s a visual pun that requires reading:
“The eARTh without ART is just, eh.”
To take the ‘eh’ out of life on earth Doukakis has combined resources with the Cedarcreek Parent Teacher Association to start the Friday Art Class.
“In Friday art class, students learn to see art in recycled materials, we paint, we draw ideas, we use our hands and minds to make things. We create, experiment and discover,” said Doukakis.
One of Doukakis’s favorite pieces hangs in classroom #33.
“We have a window display here off all kinds of bottles, plastic bottles, milk jugs, water bottles, soda pop bottles that have been cut into flowers and they’ve been spray painted and strung on fishing line,” Doukakis said.
Although it can be an interesting exercise for students to make treasures of out trash the materials may be more practicality rather than choice.
“There isn’t a lot of money around here,” said Doukakis.
The dramatic cuts in school budgets have reduced the emphasis on the arts in school nationwide. Doukakis, a former professional art director and artist at some of the largest advertising agencies in Los Angeles, believes that creative thinking is not only valuable but imperative.
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Fortunately, when kids are given the materials and time, Doukakis believes creative thinking comes naturally.
“It just seems to pour right out of them once they get going and it never ceases to amaze me their perspective on things and how unusual or funny or beautiful, it can be, the things that they do,” said Doukakis.
Currently 40 students get to participate in the Friday Art Class every five weeks. There are five sessions throughout the year. To keep the project afloat though, Doukakis needs more support.
To that end, Doukakis and her students are participating in two events: The first is entering the CArt Art competition at the City of Santa Clarita's Earth Arbor Day Festival on Saturday, April 14, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Central Park.
The competition requires artists to decorate a recycling trash bin and the winners get cash and prizes. The Friday Art Class decorated their trash bin with theme of “Ocean Pollution.”
“It’s a big underwater trashcan painted with all kinds of sea life and sea creatures that have been polluted with things people throw into the ocean or leave behind at the beach and get washed away,” Doukakis said.
If they win cash, Doukakis will reinvest the money towards art supplies.
However, the Friday Art Class is not relying on the tastes of art judges. They’ve also decided to hold it’s first interactive art exhibition/arts fundraiser on Friday, April 20, at Valencia’s Barnes and Noble.
Barnes and Noble, Baja Fresh, Ben and Jerry’s and Bake You Happy have agreed to donate a percentage of any purchases made during the fundraiser to the growing arts program at Cedarcreek.
The exhibit will feature a composite work of art entitled Meet Cedarcreek which is made up of recycled CDs and other materials.
“The reason why we call this Meet Cedarcreek is because there are 450 of these disks. There’s no two that are alike. They are all very different, and very beautiful and very individual just like the children here at Cedarcreek. And you see all 450 of them in this exhibit,” said Doukakis.
In addition to the gallery, Doukakis is inviting families to create their own works of art using the Friday Art Class materials.
“There’s going to be three hours of art making where we have all of the leftover materials. There’s tons of it. There’s piles of it. I’m looking at it right here. We’re inviting the public, families, children whoever to come and sit and create their own mini-masterpieces,” Doukakis said.
For Doukakis, 13 years in the professional art world is in the rear view mirror. She’s focused now on building this program.
“This clearly is my passion and my calling now. I feel like this is what I should have been doing a long ago is working with children in a program like this,” Doukakis said.
The Barnes & Noble Cedarcreek Elementary Art Exhibit/Fundraiser takes place April 20 from 7 p.m. to closing.
If you would like to contribute to the Friday Art Club you can contact Janis Doukakis at firstname.lastname@example.org