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Main Elementary takes flight with artist-in-residence Evon Zerbetz

May 2, 2017
Main Elementary takes flight with artist-in-residence Evon Zerbetz
By Noelle H. Lowery

Last month, artist Evon Zerbetz visited Kodiak Island Borough School District, and the Main Elementary School family rolled out the red carpet for the Ketchikan-based artist, relief printmaker and book illustrator.

Zerbetz was on-island as part of KIBSD’s “Artist in Schools” program for the 2016-2017 school year. “Artists in Schools” is made possible through a partnership between the Alaska State Council on the Arts (a division of the Department of Education and Early Development) and the National Endowment for the Arts with additional support from the Rasmuson Foundation. The goal: To support the inclusion of professional teaching artists in schools that are often underserved in the area of the direct art instruction. Interested school districts apply for the grant program and supply matching support.

As a result, explains Main Elementary Principal Angie Chervenak, “the students of most of (KIBSD’s) town schools and a rural school have the opportunity to experience the challenge and joy of working in an art form that may be otherwise unknown to them.  This year, KIBSD had both local artists and off-island artists working with our students.”

Zerbetz is one of the artists on the Alaska State Council on the Arts’ Statewide Teaching Artist Roster, which was created to help teachers and administrators find qualified teaching artists for the “Artists in Schools” program. Most recently, Zerbetz completed an installation for the Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum that included a 65’ x 9 ‘ wall of architectural art glass and etched red alder panels entitled “We are Written in the Layers of the Earth.”
Fifth-grade teacher Kate Shoemaker was part of the team facilitating Main’s “Art in Schools” program for this year. According to Shoemaker, Zerbetz spent two weeks working with Main students, creating artwork based on the theme of “flight.”

“Evon came up with the idea from Main’s eagle mascot,” she notes.
The central focus of the workshop was a 40-foot vibrant and colorful installation created by Zerbetz and the students and depicting ravens and eagles in flight at sunset. Using block printing, grades K-2 created a banner using sticky foam, and grades 3-5 did block carving. Additional small art projects included “ghost prints” and block relief depictions of birds.
“This was many students first time being exposed to block printing,” says Shoemaker. “Students pushed themselves to take risks with their art and enjoyed the creative process. Students also had an integral part in designing, painting and creating the art installation. This will be a piece that remains in the school long after the students move on to middle school. I think they will always remember being part of this project.”

The installation was unveiled at Main’s annual Art Walk on April 28. Roughly 75 people attended the event, including faculty, staff, students and community members.