Olathe & Southwest Joco

As Olathe library branch preps for move, ‘art for art’s sake’ will be a priority

Avery Ney, left, and Ellie Thompson were focused on their watercolor paintings during the Olathe Public Library’s winter wonderland-themed art class held Jan. 23 at the Indian Creek location.
Avery Ney, left, and Ellie Thompson were focused on their watercolor paintings during the Olathe Public Library’s winter wonderland-themed art class held Jan. 23 at the Indian Creek location. Special to The Olathe News

During a watercolor class at the Olathe Public Library in mid-January, young painters learned an important lesson in making art: Do-overs are OK.

“You can make what you like in art and if it doesn’t turn out, you can just start over,” said 7-year-old class participant Cash Sundheim, from Olathe.

Fellow painter, 10-year-old Lexie Ney from Olathe, agreed.

“When you paint, you can’t really mess up. It’s your own and you can just try again.”

As the Indian Creek branch prepares to move into a new building in the fall, art experiences for young patrons will be a priority. Children’s library assistant, Kristen Ramsdale is spearheading these initiatives.

“We’re going to focus more on the value of making art, and the importance of art of art for art’s sake,” Ramsdale said.

Kate Capps, Olathe Public Library’s children’s librarian and school liaison, led the Jan. 23 winter wonderland-themed class.

As part of the one-hour session, Capps taught the elementary-age students a crayon-resist painting technique. In this technique, the young artists used white crayons to outline and define snowflake patterns and designs before applying the watercolors.

“Art introduces students to new things they might love, but which also support them at their level of learning,” Capps said. “There’s science in the resist process, but it’s perfectly painless. It becomes learning without saying ‘you’re learning this.’”

As Ramsdale plans upcoming classes for students from preschool through high school, she will introduce class participants to art techniques and projects that also emphasize another important lesson.

Ramsdale recognizes that through the study and practice of art, people can acquire visual literacy, which is the ability to read, write and create visual images. Though it is a concept that foundationally relates to art and design, visual literacy has much wider applications. As a linguistic tool, visual literacy helps people communicate, exchange ideas and navigate our highly visual digital world.

The children’s librarian views visual literacy as a way to understand and explore the world from a unique perspective.

“Visual literacy is a tool to communicate information and ideas,” Ramsdale said. “When we make and learn about art, we can apply it to the larger world around us. Art becomes a platform for communication and learning about others.”

Ramsdale also hopes to open a door for the library’s young art students to carry the joy of making art into adulthood. Ramsdale points to a period of time, primarily in elementary school, where kids love drawing, painting and coloring. At some point in middle or high school, she sees many young people back away from artistic endeavors.

“We want to give kids the freedom to experience and do something they might not normally do,” Ramsdale said. “They can enjoy it and have fun, no matter how old they are.”

Ramsdale is developing plans to incorporate STEM studies into future art and maker projects, such as drawing and building robots. She also intends to integrate the natural world into the library’s art initiatives. The new Indian Creek library will have a children’s garden, and classes are being planned for young patrons go outside and draw from nature.

“You see creativity sprouting when kids do art,” Capps said. “It plants a seed and they develop their imaginations, which is really important in our electronic society.”

For more information about upcoming art classes and other events, Olathe Public Library.