Bringing students young and old together through art

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BENNINGTON — Southern Vermont College will be hosting a local artist for the spring term.

Renee Bouchard starts her Visiting Artist in Residence semester as an exhibitor and instructor on Jan. 20. Her new work, "We the People" will be displayed in the Burgdorff Gallery.

In the anticipated course, "Art, Making and Meaning" students will interact with children from the Bennington Childhood Center and play the "Surrealist game called the Exquisite Corpse," Bouchard said.

"It means that the children and the college students will be taking turns to create a visual dialogue," she explained. "We will learn the language of art through the elements and principles of painting including making our own paints using pigments and oil."

Questions that will be analyzed throughout the course include: Why does marketing work today in comparison to Early American Advertising? What are the values and aspirations of our community? While art has thrived in authoritarian forms of government, How is art and democratic ethos different or similar? How do we become human through art? How is self-taught art work and children's art similar or different?

"My objective will be to enlarge the students concept of art so that it becomes integrated into their personal and social lives," Bouchard said. "I will expect students to begin to perceive form and meaning not just in pictures and sculptures but how it affects our communities. Will work from self-directed essential questions within this context."

Bouchard last presented paintings in 2013 in the Burgdorff Gallery, which depicted her pregnancy from the point of view of her baby, Ensor.

"In my experience of teaching art to children, I learned that children have much more tolerance for artistic differences among them in terms of ability and desire," she said. "Unfortunately, that open mindedness can easily end as their artistic development approaches 12 years of age if their interest in it isn't nurtured. When I have taught adults in the past it is always much more difficult for them as students to access their own unique voice artistically if they don't innately understand the visual language of art. It becomes much easier for adolescents to learn to conform instead."

Growing up, Bouchard regularly visited her father in Bennington and remembers observing Grandma Moses' paintings at the Bennington Museum. Later she attended the Cleveland Institute of Art and graduated from Maine College of Art (MECA) in 1999.

Bouchard holds various awards and honors from Burlington City Arts, the Vermont Arts Council, The Lab School/Rober Rauschenberg Foundation, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, The Cooper Union, and Kate Millett's Women's Art Colony Farm, according to a release. In 2014, one of Bouchard's paintings appeared on the cover of "Down East" magazine for their 60th anniversary.

Her work has also appeared in several places around Bennington.

Bouchard plans to let students re-purpose a project she worked on years ago while an artist in residence at the Stark Hose gallery. "The Bennington of the Last Suckle" was funded by a creation grant from the Vermont Arts Council in 2009 and it's constructed out of paper mache, plaster and cylindrical balloon forms.

"I don't see being an artist and teaching art as mutually exclusive," she said. "I plan on working side by side with the students with a studio tone of curiosity."

"We the People" consists of large panels and sheets of watercolor paper displayed in a non-traditional style where Bouchard's — now 4-year-old — child also worked on.

"I rotated the boards between the living room, the kitchen, and my studio so that a real domestic dialogue began," she said. "A friend of mine described the materials in my work like making use of "left-overs" from the fridge. I've nailed tin cans on the surface, glued plastic, lids and metal spoons to the surface. Any sort of mark maker given to me I have made use of, wax crayon, paint, powdered graphite and charcoal."

Painting materials consist of walnut oil, watercolor, acrylic, casein, Sharpie markers, glitter, studio detritus and other donated materials.

For more information on Bouchard's work, visit renee-bouchard.com.

Reach staff writer Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471 or @MC_McGeeney.


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