“I am an artist.” – Fatima Martinez-Gamez, age 7.
“I learned about different artists, how to draw paintings from the middle and go out. I also learned how to make a painting on a shoe.” – Gabriela Avila, age 12.
He is known as the guy who spread the slogan, “Keeping the arts alive in Gilroy” that we see and hear all around Gilroy. Rick Charvet has been keeping the arts alive by teaching visual arts in the Gilroy Unified School District for 21 years.
This summer he headed an arts program designed for middle school students, but kids as young as 6 showed up “and had the time of their lives,” according to Charvet, who taught drawing and painting in daily two-hour classes through a grant designated for low income youth. There was so much interest that he had to add a second set of classes to the program.
It was a breath of fresh air in a time that has been demoralizing for arts teachers and supporters alike as they have watched many once-flourishing visual and performing arts programs in public schools shrink along with the dwindling California state budget. In Gilroy, very few students have the opportunity to experience an authentic and well-developed visual arts program. However, this summer at the Gilroy Arts Center, students relished a hands-on art experience that they will never forget.
“I found out that it is fun to be creative.” – Noah Lugo, age 6, Luigi Aprea School.
“I liked art camp because no one else can do the exact same thing as you.” – Gizella Mendez, age 8.
“I learned there are no mess-ups!” – Natalia Zendejas, age 12.
“You do not know how great this summer experience was and how much I appreciate the Gilroy Arts Alliance in believing in what I can do,” Charvet said. “Somewhere along the line,” Charvet explained, “Kids have lost their natural ability, not all – but most – to be creative: to make a purple picture because they are looking at trees out their window at night; to make an orange lake because that’s how they feel about the water or a found memory of a family excursion.
The hardest part of teaching art is teaching kids to be creative again.” One of the summer projects involved making original collage paper and turning it into a creature that would be placed in their imaginary environment painted with acrylics.
“The story behind my monster and his land is that my monster is alien shaped. He has wings, so he can fly and fins so he goes under water. He lives on the planet ‘Lumbenia,’ in a cave with a big bush growing on it. I learned in art class that everything doesn’t have to be perfect and don’t compare your art to others,” said Emiliano Sanchez, 11, a Brownell student.
“I learned how to draw whatever I wanted whenever. My creature is weird and lives in a ‘pink peace sign tree’ that is in front of a green spot in the orange sky. A pink tree is in the background,” said Megan McCoy, 8 of Antonio Del Buono Elementary, who drew “Land of Peace.” “I really feel it’s about the positive energy when the kids get to ‘do their own thing.’” Charvet explained. “I teach conceptually, so projects work for 6-year-olds as well as 66-year-olds. The only thing that changes is the technique because as we mature, our motor skills improve.”
“A lot of people came together to make this possible,” Sherri Stuart said, an Arts Alliance board member. She gave credit to the Gilroy City Council for voting to provide financial support, St. Joseph’s Family Center for sponsoring it, the City staff who are so supportive, Charvet “for being such a wonderful teacher,” and the Gilroy Arts Alliance for working so hard to bring art to the entire community at the Gilroy Center for the Arts.”
As soon as Charvet hung the children’s artwork on display last week, it began receiving reactions like, “Wow!” and “This is awesome,” and “Who did this?” “I believe art is what makes us human. Inside all of us is an ‘artist within.’ Creativity represents ideas and ideas represent change. Change is inevitable and many times it is for the betterment of society…art that conveys a message creates rich conversation. Whenever one creates an original piece of art, it signifies an extension of oneself – a unique piece of art no one else could create except he/she.
Many kids told me that this summer was the first time they actually made something they could hang on their wall. They could actually stand back and say, ‘I made that,’ and be proud. “There is a look when one of my kids creates something that I get to see as an art teacher.
“The feeling is indescribable. That is why art is my passion and I am so happy that I can pass it on to others in this world,” he said.
To see the children’s art exhibit:
Where: Gilroy City Hall
When: Now through Sept. 24; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday