SMITHVILLE – While in a teacher evaluation years ago, Jennifer Winkler was asked what her goals were for her art program, and she said she wanted to aim for the skies.
“When kids leave here (Green Local Schools) and they talk to other kids from other schools about what it was like to go here, I want them to say, ‘Well, we were known for this art program. We had this insane art program. Nobody else did what we did,’” said Winkler, art teacher at Smithville High School and Green Middle School.
Years later and with seven wins from the Wayne County Fair, the county High School Art Show and Junior Show over the years, Winkler feels like the program is finally there and it couldn’t have done it without the Smithie Art Club.
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Open to grades six through 12, the Smithie Art Club is a completely self-funded after-school art group that has made unique artwork and hosted community events since its creation during the 2015-16 school year. Over the years, Winkler has watched the program grow with great hopes of where to take it next.
Dr. Seuss furniture, stained glass windows and acrylic earrings, oh my!
With 20 members at the high school, 30 at the middle school and more joining every week, Winkler said she has seen increasing interest in the program and their projects.
Over the years, the club has done projects both for the district and the community. At the schools, the students have helped make the Smithie mascot costume using things like upholstery foam and a softball helmet and have recently started working on a stained-glass window they hope to eventually display in or near the school.
Winkler has worked with the students in the club to teach them about new art forms, such as 3D printing and laser engraving, and how to fund the club by running it like a business.
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One way the club has been able to raise money is through earrings they made from scrap acrylic and donated materials. With the materials, the students were able to create and sell roughly 140 pairs of earrings with Green and Norwayne Local Schools logos and colors.
Standing out from the rest with community events
For students like Savannah Messenger, Taylor Rohrer and Joshua Smucker who have been in the club for five years, they said their club is unique not because of the artwork they create but rather the community engagement they do.
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Some things the club has done includes community art programs for elementary students and adults, holiday window paintings at local nursing homes and a few projects for the Smithville Police Department. Not only have the students designed the patches on the Smithville police uniforms and engraved items the officers use regularly, but they also have helped with the Safety Town educational program put on by the department.
While they all enjoy creating their artwork, a few of the students shared that the connections they make and the impact they leave on the community is what makes it special for them.
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“I feel like I haven’t seen very many other schools like put sales out for earrings or go to the nursing homes and sell stuff to them (the community) and do murals and art shows,” Smucker said. “I feel like for a high school and middle school art club that’s not super common, especially in this area.”
Hopes of field trips and new 3D printer on the horizon
As the club has continued to do more over the years, Winkler said she continues to look for where the program can go next.
After buying a glass kiln for her classroom and seeing an increased interest in glasswork, Winkler said she hopes to one day take the high school students on a field trip to learn about glassblowing.
Another thing the club hopes to do is expand their 3D art capabilities. The club already has a 3D printer, made by brothers and club members Josh and Austin Smucker, they hope to raise enough money to buy a 3D ceramic printer in the future.
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With all the things they have been able to do over the years and hope to do before they graduate, club member Rohrer and several others say they are very happy they joined and encourage others to do the same.
“If they’re (incoming sixth graders) on the fence, just do it,” Rohrer said. “Don’t hesitate, just jump into it both feet ready to hit the water, because once you do it you will never back out. I’ve been here since sixth grade, and I can’t imagine not doing it.”
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On Twitter: @RachelKaras3