Art returns to Genoa-Kingston elementary and middle schools

Evelyn Martinez, a seventh-grader at Genoa-Kingston Middle School loves making arts and crafts at home, but she never had an art class at school.

“I like to draw, I love doing crafts and I did some projects in elementary school, but it was never art class,” Martinez said.

At the start of the 2019-20 school year, Martinez was able to attend her first-ever art class.

“I already know it’s going to be my favorite class at school,” she said.

Art has not been taught at Genoa Elementary School, Kingston Elementary School or Genoa-Kingston Middle School for more than five years, after the economic collapse in the late 2000s led to lower enrollment and decreased financial support from the state.

“We had to stop art classes at the younger levels many years ago due to budget concerns,” said Brent O’Daniell, superintendent for Genoa-Kingston CUSD 424. “Adding art back into our curriculum is another component of STEM and STEAM learning. Art, music and other creative applications have students use another part of their brains. At Genoa-Kingston schools, we educate the whole child. Art is another component, exposing students to things they might not otherwise learn.”

Three years ago, the new Education Based Funding Model was adopted by the state of Illinois, which resulted in increased revenue at the state level. The school district’s board agreed to re-implement the art instruction at every level beginning this school year.

The additional state funding allowed the school district to hire two new art teachers: Laura Hulseberg at Genoa-Kingston Middle School and Alissa Magoch at Genoa and Kingston elementary schools. Lisa Beynon continues to teach art at Genoa-Kingston High School.

John Francis, principal at Genoa Elementary School, said that in years past, teachers included art projects in class, but it was not a structured curriculum.

“The students would incorporate graphs and art into their science fair, or they would do projects for holidays like Christmas and Mother’s Day,” Francis said. “Having a dedicated art program is a whole added layer of true creativity. We are truly trying to develop a well-rounded child, and giving them a variety of ways to express themselves through creativity helps them explore and helps them grow.”

Craig Butcher, principal at Genoa-Kingston Middle School, said he fondly remembers taking art classes in middle school.

“I loved art in middle school, learning about the color wheel, how to draw and paint and do hands-on activities,” Butcher said. “For some students, math or English or history isn’t their strong point. Some kids love art. It’s a great way to be creative, learn fine motor skills and have fun while learning.”

Both the new art teachers attended G-K schools: Hulseberg grew up in Kirkland and Magoch graduated from G-K High School.

“I’m so excited and thrilled to be bringing art back to the classroom,” Hulseberg said. “Art is a cross-curricular subject, so many topics can be brought in and included.”

“Art allows you to build up your self-esteem and express your feelings in a creative way,” Magoch said. “Without art, students were missing out on a way to express themselves in a positive and healthy way. Drawing is a form of expression young children do even before they learn to read or write. Everyone is good at something, and art allows you to find a creative way to make something beautiful.”

Ethan Mayberry, a seventh-grader at G-K Middle School, said he’s excited to take art class because “there’s no right or wrong answer with art.” He hopes to draw and make comics.

“I think everyone is excited about art class, the students, the teachers, the parents, the administration, everyone,” Magoch said. “I would want to say ‘thank you’ for everyone advocating for art for so long. So many school districts are not as fortunate to have art at every level in the classroom. Thank you to everyone for your support, smiles and excitement.”

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