Local artist leads workshop at Bennington Free Library

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BENNINGTON — Local artist and former art teacher Renee Bouchard worked with students at the Bennington Free Library this summer, helping them learn how to collaborate on art projects.

The "Tag, You're It!" collaborative art workshop ran this summer as one of the library's "Ready for Action Thursdays." About 20 children signed up for the hour-long program, according to children's librarian Linda Donigan. Bouchard, who previously taught elementary art in the Berkshires for five years before joining a private school in Maine, where she worked with students with learning disabilities, showed the students some paintings of her own for inspiration. She then gave them the materials they would need to create collaborative art projects of their own.

"They were just ready to go," said Donigan. "After spending so much time looking at the art, they didn't need instructions... It was really great to see Renee's work. There's so much energy and color."

Bouchard split the children into groups of three or four and gave them large canvasses to work on. They could use any of the materials laid in front of them – everything from watercolor paints and crayons to strips of burlap and glitter. The only rule was that every five minutes, they had to mix it up and give a new material a try.

Bouchard said she has recently been collaborating with her 2-year-old son on a series of paintings, but that she really enjoyed working with children in this age group once again. "It was wonderful, like drinking a good cup of coffee," she said. She said the children had no problems sharing an artistic space. "Collaboration is important these days, and the kids get it," she said.

"In my recent series of paintings," said Bouchard in a statement. "I have been preoccupied with exploring the scribbling stage of children's art. These collaborative works are female-based invented landscapes/labyrinths/caves that deliberately intertwine marks made by children, especially my 2-year-old son, and myself... I like the viewer not knowing who made this mark or that one. As with cave art, much of which was created before the invention of the written word, I am interested in humankind's primal urges to record and pass down visual memories. In these collaborative works, I play the role of archetypal shaman, mother goddess, and simultaneously, a child, seeing the world with fresh eyes."

"I see the scribbling stage as the earliest and most abstract search for language," she said. "I look to children's art for its irrational belief in magic and the possibility that perhaps we live in a culture where art actually functions in life and is part of a fundamental, unquestioned concept of what it means to be human."

Nine of Bouchard's paintings will be on display at the library from now until Nov. 30. The works on display are available to purchase, with sales benefitting the library and its programs and services.

This event was part of the library's summer reading program, which in total saw over 600 students sign up for workshops and classes about reading, science, art, and more.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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