By Steve Woodhouse
Pella — A special puppet show will be held Friday, March 15, at 6:30 p.m., featuring a guest troop and a group of local children.
The troop's performance just happened to coincide with the Community Center's class on making puppets.
"It was just a weird coincidence," Mary Robertson, lead art instructor with the Community Center. Robertson leads and organizes several art classes at the center, aimed for children and adults. For the puppets, and many other art projects, students are given basic supplies and turned loose with them.
"They come up with these fantastic creations," Robertson said of the children who participate. The students enjoy the artwork and working with other children. Older students often work with the younger ones with projects such as sewing.
The educational value of the Community Center's art classes goes beyond the projects. For instance, Robertson describes it as a form of engineering, when students try to find the correct materials for their projects.
"It worked out really well to help them think like an engineer," Robertson said. Direction received from Robertson and other instructors usually does not go beyond a suggestion for a project. Students take it from there. Even if there is a class of 24 students, there can be 24 different, unique projects being worked on.
Robertson has been working with the center since 1991. Classes are open to all students, and most of them are $2 per session.
"It's a very economical way to get the arts out to the students," Robertson said.
Each summer, the center sponsors the Art in the Park program. This is when Robertson takes her show "on the road" and brings materials and equipment to each of the City's parks. Neighborhood children are invited to join her and work on an art project. The first one is scheduled for June 19 at West Market Park.
One Art in the Park project that stands out for her was called "Float your Boat." Students made their own boats and, with a string attached, they set the boats asail in the pond. Another fun project was fort building in Big Rock Park.
"It was a lot of fun to see that creativity," Robertson said.
The material used for the center's art projects is often donated. If not used for an art project, some of it may have ended up in the landfill. By reusing the material, it gains new life as something great, even if it's only temporary. For instance, Robertson remembers receiving a shipment of old trophies, which her students used to make their own awards for different things.
"We're that place for stuff you just can't keep," Robertson said. "Mostly, it's about giving stuff a new life."
Each year, the center fills a gallery with the art from its talented students. Every young student is encouraged to make at least one project extra special, so that piece can be used in the art show. Collection for the show begins early each year.
Registration has begun for summer classes. Robertson said the earlier you register, the better. Registration can be completed online at http://www.cityofpella.com. Class availability and times are dependent upon the instructors' schedules.
The support of volunteers, and those seeking college credit, is greatly appreciated at the center. Robertson said Central College students "do a ton of work" at the center, often for pay or credit. She would like to have more assistants for adult classes, and says working at the center can look good on a resume.
If you have an interest in a particular kind of art, and would like to teach or learn more about it, contact the center at 641-628-4571 and talk to Brenda Ross.