I spent the first half of February working with the elementary school in Delta Junction, a community 100 miles south of Fairbanks. It’s a place I pass through frequently – the road forks in Delta and either takes you to the Alcan, or you can continue down the Richardson to Valdez, Chitina, or Glennallen. I’ve made many stops at the IGA in Delta Junction to peruse the unique selection of Russian food items or to wolf a buffalo burger at the drive-in on the way home from a fishing trip, but I’ve never actually spent any time there.
Their school is unique in that at present it only has kindergarten through third grade, with significantly larger numbers of students on the young end. I really had to think through my approach to the “little little” kids. You can’t fake it with that many. Being forced to really pay attention to how I structured these classes will help me in the future.
We started with drawings, moved on to cut paper or sticker mosaics, and then began work on large glass tile mosaics based on their drawings. As always, the hardest part of my job was selecting the images to work with.
There was some smashing of plates by kindergarteners
enthusiastic making of mosaics by teachers and staff
And, as always, really fun large murals for the school. We made six of them in the two weeks, all based on things students studied in science. This was an extraordinarily supportive school. I have rarely had such a great response to both the community evening and the teacher workshop. I’d go back to Delta Junction anytime.
The students were motivated and focused, a hard task considering there were many days during my residency when the temperature dropped below the -20 cutoff for outdoor recess. It’s hard not to build up steam when you can’t go outside.
When I was finished, I drove home along the river in the twilight thinking about driving this same stretch of road nearly 15 years ago. I’d traveled up from Montana with my truck weighted down with a 700 pound letterpress along with most of the rest of my worldly possessions. It was a very uncertain time in all sorts of ways. I wasn’t sure if I’d made the right choice, or if there were right choices, or if I’d been crazy to consider moving back to Alaska to try to be an artist. There wasn’t a clear landing point aside from a summer job, and lots of questions that had to yet to be answered. There’s a lot of time between Montana and Alaska to think about these things when you’re traveling alone. After many long days and nights of worry, I saw this view of the river and the mountains and something shifted. I can say now that although it hasn’t been direct, or necessarily easy, it was the right choice and I’m so glad to have taken the risk.
There are lots of projects and exhibits in the hopper right now. I’ll write more about what’s coming up next week. It’s going to be a big spring and summer around here.