Art classes inspiring young students during summer break

HARLINGEN – Diego Vasquez found art class a welcome reprieve from the struggles of summer malaise.

“It cuts down on screen time and also I don’t want my brain to get demolished,” said Diego, 9, who was “Zooming” in on Robin Valle’s art class Tuesday at Long Elementary.

Valle had several students taking her “Beyond the Bell” class face to face, with several others like Diego logging in by Zoom.

Valle sat before her computer screen with the virtual students looking on so they could see her demonstrating her lesson on canvas.

“If you want to mix a little orange on your painting that’s good,” said Valle as her masked face to face students, sitting six feet apart, blended warm colors together around a large heart.

“Yesterday we did a color wheel and today we are mixing to try to create all the different colors,” Valle explained. “First we are doing all around the sides with color. Tomorrow we are doing the inside of the heart.”

The kids looked intently at their canvases as they daubed small patches of red and yellow acrylic paint around their hearts, carefully working them together in steady blending.

Madeline Gonzales, 10, was thoroughly enjoying herself.

“It’s really nice,” she said. “I’m learning how to blend and just how to use primary colors.”

But this wasn’t just a fun “something-to-do” for Madeline – she’s a serious artist.

“If I wasn’t here I’d probably be at my art table in my room,” she said. “I like to paint flowers and lots of abstract art.”

None of the students seemed deterred by the masks and distance, so intent were they on their art projects. Indeed, they seem to have adjusted well to all the numerous safety precautions the district has implemented to keep them safe.

“All their supplies are their own and they’re not sharing their supplies,” Valle said. “The class has been going great, the kids are having a great time. The parents that are home with their kids are also having a great time. We’re all kind of communicating together and sharing ideas.”

She spoke more in-depth about the priority of safety in the “new era” of COVID-19.

“In the classroom, the kids each have their own little area where they know that they can get up to go wash their brush if they need to but only one person at a time,” she said, “so management hasn’t been a problem.”

She’s had no disciplinary problems.

“The behavior has been good because they want to be there so much,” she said.

Even the Zoom kids have been behaving.

“I had a girl raise her hand and ask if she could go to the bathroom,” she said with a chuckle.

More serious now, she added, “I really do think the kids have missed being in a classroom with other students.”

As for young Diego, he expressed his excitement.

“It’s really fun that I will be like a great artist,” he said.