Mother joins daughter in summer program where students brush up art skills

July 25, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Celestine Johnson, teacher and mom, is just one of the kids this summer.

Just one of the 30 students in Duane Sabiston's crash course in oil painting -- part of the Baltimore County school department's summer art enrichment program. Another student is Mrs.

Johnson's daughter, Betserai. Mrs. Johnson and her daughter are classmates in the two-week workshop winding up at Cockeysville Middle School.

Betserai has participated in the summer program for the past two years, but this is her mother's first try -- and the first brush with oil painting for both.

"I can not tear myself away from coming here," says the Randallstown mother of two and longtime Baltimore County elementary school teacher. "The students are so talented. I'm picking up so much. This is like therapy."

Her 12-year-old daughter is a young woman of fewer words.

"It's fun" to have her mother in class, Betserai says, and oil painting "is OK," though she prefers sketching, shading and cartooning.

But other youngsters in the oils class have more to say about their adult colleague.

"I think she's more open. She asks more questions" than other students, says Jennifer Riley, an

11th-grader at Chesapeake High School. "It's like she's reading our

minds."

Still, "I think of her as just one of the students. It's just like she would be a senior in high school," Jennifer says.

The oil-painting class is one section of the 5-year-old art program that has attracted almost 200 youngsters in grades two to 12 from around the county this year. Most dabble in a variety of media, including photography with homemade pin-hole cameras, primitive publishing, batik and group murals. Others are in a computer video workshop at Carver School of Technology.

Betserai, who attends Holy Family School in Randallstown, has been in the general workshops for the past two summers. That's how her mother became interested.

At the final exhibit last year, Mrs. Johnson was so impressed with the oil paintings that she asked Mr. Sabiston if she could be his helper and observe the class. "To my delight," says Mrs. Johnson, "he was as eager as I. I certainly didn't forget. He's kind enough to let me sit in as a student."

She also helps in the classroom, setting up projects and doing other chores.

"She's not a distraction," Mr. Sabiston says. In fact, he and the program's coordinator, Daisy McTigue, agree that Mrs. Johnson is an asset to the class, even acting as a mentor to some of the students.

Her first oil painting is a still life. Her daughter's initial painting is a landscape done while the class was on a field trip in the country.

"I'm learning how much I don't know," Mrs. Johnson says.

Nurturing artistic talent is what the summer program is all about, Ms. McTigue says. Although many of the youngsters are in gifted-and-talented art classes, that is not a prerequisite.

"I like art a lot, and I didn't want to sit home and be bored," says Alecia Newman, a sixth-grader at Bear Creek Elementary who rides a school bus for an hour to get to the sessions. Alecia and her friends were making larger-than-life, papier-mache insects.

Across the room, Amanda Smit, an Oakleigh fifth-grader, was mixing colors for marbleized paper to use as a book cover. "You just don't paint and you just don't do one thing. You can make your own decisions," she explains.

The 145 youngsters in the general group choose from several workshops designed to serve a variety of interests. This year's theme is art and science, and the workshops have nature themes: woodlands, a rain forest, mountains, the desert. Tuition for the two-week workshop is $150 per child, including materials and transportation for those who live far from Cockeysville.

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