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Students Channel New Braunfels History In Museum Art Show

It’s not often that five year olds get their art displayed in a museum. At the Institute of Texan Cultures, 250 K-12 students from Comal County now have their artwork shown in an exhibit that celebrates the history and heritage of New Braunfels. TPR’s Louisa Jonas reports a lot of work went into the multimedia show.

Nell Anderson is the art teacher at Canyon Lake High School. Today in art class, her students are working on sculpture. Anderson says four of her students want to be art teachers so she shows them lesson plans and even gets their input on instructional videos. Kyli Lowrey is one of those students. She’s tossing a ball of clay back and forth between her hands. “This is recycled clay,” Kyli says. “You can make something out of it again. So there’s air bubbles inside of it. That’s where you take old clay and make it so it. So when you’re wedging it, you’re trying to get the air bubbles out. And the clay’s kinda tacky because you add water to the old clay to make it malleable again, so we’re basically getting the air bubbles out and making it less tacky."Anderson helped four of her students get their paintings ready for the institute show. “If a student takes time to create something, they’re putting a piece of themselves into that artwork,” Anderson says. “And me as an art teacher, I will give them techniques and ways to make it better compositionally technique-wise. And then beyond that it’s my job to get it out there in the community.” Asia Giles is one of Anderson’s students whose painting is in the show. She’s a senior. “I did a German woman that was looking toward the future and leaving the past behind her where everything was kind of dead, and looking into a very fertile land and just an overall better place in her life,” Asia says. In Asia’s painting, a blond woman is looking into a sky of orange and blue. The sky behind her head is cloudy and the earth behind her back is barren. At the show’s opening Monday night at the institute, people crowd into the gallery looking at the student art work. Michelle Engel is an art teacher at Canyon Middle School. Her students created colored pencil drawings of Grimm Brothers fairytales set in New Braunfels. “I love seeing their artwork in a professional setting, Engel says. “It’s very exciting for me and for them. Normally we just see their art in our hallways or in a cafeteria, but having it up in a museum with the spotlight is just fabulous.” Mia Taglia is one of Engel’s students and an eighth grader. In her drawing the Evil Queen is giving Snow White the apple outside of Naegelin’s Bakery. Mia recently moved to New Braunfels from New Jersey. “I actually didn’t know this was a German based town so finding out about that it was so crazy, because I’m German So I was really looking into it” Mia says. “And I found out more of the Grimm Brothers Fairytales that I actually didn’t even know were by them. And I learned how Naegelin’s is the oldest bakery in Texas and how much they contribute to the community and stuff like that, and how big they are.” Kira Richey is also one of Engel’s students and in the eighth grade. She chose Snow White and the seven dwarves and her drawing is a close up of Snow White’s arm, limp, on the ground. Just out of reach is the glowing apple. “I learned how to draw the hand, because I had to lookup how to draw the hand, because the first time I tried it was really bad” Kira says. “And I also used these little stubs to smudge the wood flooring because it made it look cleaner, glossier. I feel really proud about it because it’s got this real sense of achievement to it. It means that all that practicing has paid off.” The practicing has paid off for a lot of students tonight. The artwork is hung in the gallery with professional lighting and the opening is packed with people. The exhibit will be on display until February 12th.

Louisa Jonas is an independent public radio producer, environmental writer, and radio production teacher based in Baltimore. She is thrilled to have been a PRX STEM Story Project recipient for which she produced a piece about periodical cicadas. Her work includes documentaries about spawning horseshoe crabs and migratory shorebirds aired on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered. Louisa previously worked as the podcast producer at WYPR 88.1FM in Baltimore. There she created and produced two documentary podcast series: Natural Maryland and Ascending: Baltimore School for the Arts. The Nature Conservancy selected her documentaries for their podcast Nature Stories. She has also produced for the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s Distillations Podcast. Louisa is editor of the book Backyard Carolina: Two Decades of Public Radio Commentary. She holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her training also includes journalism fellowships from the Science Literacy Project and the Knight Digital Media Center, both in Berkeley, CA. Most recently she received a journalism fellowship through Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution where she traveled to Toolik Field Station in Arctic Alaska to study climate change. In addition to her work as an independent producer, she teaches radio production classes at Howard Community College to a great group of budding journalists. She has worked as an environmental educator and canoe instructor but has yet to convince a great blue heron to squawk for her microphone…she remains undeterred.