NORTH BENNINGTON >> Students from Bennington County Head Start had the opportunity to show off their own works of art on Wednesday, thanks to help from the Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Arts Exchange.
Program coordinator Heather Bullock said that both the Bennington and Rutland branches of Head Start participate in the partnership, which is now in its second year. Thanks to funding from the Arts Council, VAE artist Betsy Kane was able to visit each of Bennington Head Start's three classes for about 45 minutes each week, for 10 weeks. In total, about 40 children from the Bennington area, ages 4-5, were able to participate in the program this year.
"It's wonderful because it integrates art into the Head Start curriculum," said Bullock.
Kane said each class worked on a different project, based on their individual curriculums. One class was learning about the Arctic and Antarctic, so the children made and decorated foam penguins. Later, when they were learning about the ocean, they made paper mache puppets of various sea creatures, including fish, sharks, and dolphins. They have since been using those puppets in shows in their classroom.
"I wanted to help them make things they could continue to enjoy after," said Kane.
In the second class, the students made a large model fire truck and paper mache planets. In the third class, the students made three dimensional Dr. Seuss-themed landscapes, complete with tiny cut-out photographs of the students themselves; animals out of Model Magic, which they then designed habitats for; personalized stamps; and a painting created by dipping large grapes in paint and rolling them around the canvas.
Kane has a master's degree in art education, and taught in the classroom for four years in New York. She has also worked at Mass MoCA and the Bennington Museum, where she was the director of education. She said one of her goals with Head Start was showing the students a wide variety of art projects that they could make.
"At this age, it's all about process," she said, "so it's important to introduce them to as many materials as possible."
Betsy Rathbun-Gunn, the director of Bennington County Head Start, praised the program and all the agencies involved. "It's great to have this partnership, and to introduce art to young children," she said.
Bennington County Head Start is run under the umbrella of United Counseling Service, and operates out of the new facility on Park Street in North Bennington. It is part of the Vermont Head Start Association. You can learn more about them at www.ucsvt.org/programs/head-start, and about the statewide organization at vermontheadstart.org. You can also visit the VAE's website, vtartxchange.org.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.