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Am Griswold: Encouraging the arts early on

Griswold is Eagle Creek Elementary's artist-in-residence


by:  ISABEL GAUTSCHI -  Allison Andersen (from left), Ryann Curtis and Abby Astanin get serious about painting the clay snowmen.When teacher Rachael Showerman stepped into the room, excited students from every direction called her over to admire their freshly painted snowmen figurines.

This was the class's second session with Eagle Creek Elementary's artist-in-residence, Am Griswold.

In the first session, the students formed the snowmen out of clay.

Today, they were painting the snowmen and adding pipe cleaner arms and yarn scarves.

Griswold will work with each Eagle Creek class every other week for the rest of the school year.

Griswold's specialty is clay, and her love for it was apparent early on.

As a small child, Griswold was always making things out of play dough or mud.

“Clay has always just been my thing,” she said. “I've always loved my hands in the earth.”

by: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Am Griswold, Eagle Creek Elementary's artist-in-residence, gives a few pointers to Rachael Showerman's fifth- and sixth-graders.But Griswold gives a lot of credit to her kindergarten teacher for helping her to realize her artistic potential.

“I clearly remember my kindergarten teacher who saw something in me and said, 'You could be an artist.' And I still remember that, 50 years later,” Griswold said.

Thanks, in part, to that encouragement, Griswold said she knew her whole life that she was supposed to be an artist.

Griswold grew up in Omaha, Neb. The summer before her last year of college at the University of Nebraska in Omaha, Griswold visited her older sister, Laura Ruskamp, who had moved to the Eagle Creek area.

Griswold fell in love with the place and moved to Eagle Creek in 1981.

Though Griswold credits the Artback murals for launching the arts movement in Estacada, she remembers the arts always being a part of the town.

During the Timber Festivals of the 1980s, Griswold said the arts always were part of the festivities.

These days, Estacada has turned into “quite a little art town,” Griswold said.

Upon moving to the area, Griswold quickly was hired as a full-time custodian for the Estacada School District.

She quit in 1999 to pursue arts full-time.

Griswold has a studio at McMenamins Edgefield and sells some of her work at the Spiral Gallery in Estacada.

Griswold has long taught art classes for children and adults, albeit the sizes were much smaller than the elementary school classes she teaches now.

by:  ISABEL GAUTSCHI -  Trask Ault puts some finishing touches on his snowman.This is Griswold's first year as Eagle Creek Elementary's artist-in-residence, and she's excited to be working with the children.

“Kids are fearless — they'll try anything,” she said.

She said “something is lost” with adult art classes.

Somewhere along the line, Griswold said, adults get the idea that they can't do it, and they hesitate in front of a blank canvas or lump of clay.

“Kids don't have that ego. They just dive right in,” Griswold said.

For Griswold, it's a great pity when school art programs are cut.

“I think the arts take a backseat a lot of times to academics,” she said. “They don't see it as important. So that's why it gets cut, art and music.”

Griswold believes art helps kids to grow in every other area of their lives.

“I hope the kids get that,” Griswold said. “I hope it helps their little brains grow and helps them in all their life.

“And if some little kindergartner sees she's an artist, all the better. We need more artists,” she added.




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