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Students use senses to express themselves through art

By Bethany Knipp

Children at K-State’s Beach Museum of Art have been getting their first senses of creativity, literally.

Various groups of children have been visiting the museum to tour the exhibit “Igniting the Senses,” which opened June 6 and will continue through Oct. 5.

Children and adults alike can observe works of art visually and are encouraged to think about the other four senses the visual stimulation might evoke.

“Close your eyes and try to imagine what it would feel like lying down in that big, huge puddle,” Kathrine Schlageck, the museum’s senior educator, said.

A group of about 10 ARTSmart class children said that the photograph of two girls lying in a mud puddle in “Jessica Burchard and Tanya Marshall: Mud Volleyball Pit, Fourth of July” by Jan Wilson said it might feel “soft” and “squishy.”

“We wanted to sort of investigate that idea, how the senses work together,” Schlageck said.

She said having both children and adults think about their other senses when seeing art makes them slow down a little and take everything in.


The museum has five weeks of ARTSmart classes this summer for people ages 2 and up. Each week, the group examines one of the five senses. Last week, it was touch.

“So this is one where you really have to think about how it would feel,” Schlageck said about “Evolutions,” a watercolor work by Vance Hall Kirkland.

The image in the frame depicted a gnarled tree trunk. Schlageck passed around to the children a small, twisted piece of driftwood for them to feel.

“What we’re trying to do is see how artists can make us feel with their artwork,” she said.

After looking at several more pieces, the group went outside the museum to experience its outdoor works. Then, the ARTSmart students had the chance to make their own artwork with various kid-friendly materials in the museum’s classroom.

The students made collages using textured, colored paper and pipe cleaners.


Katie Breese said she’s brought her two sons, Brayden, 8, and Caleb, 6, to the Beach’s ARTSmart classes for the last three years. Initially they came because the family was new to Manhattan.

“It was just a great opportunity to meet people, for the kids to meet kids, and it’s also just a great way for them to be creative in this space,” she said.

Brayden, while working on his textured piece, gave a slightly exasperated “I don’t know” as to what it was.

“This is a safe place to say ‘I don’t know,’” Schlageck said. “Some of the best things have happened with ‘I don’t know.’” Brayden said he hadn’t always been interested in art. He said something changed that sparked his interest, though he wasn’t sure what it was.

“I just like to draw,” he said. “It just like happened.”

“I do the stuff that my brother does,” 6-year-old Caleb said. Both brothers said they enjoyed the art class.


At the same table, Stella Hugunin, 6, was designing a prominently pink, textured collage.

“Stella’s really creative,” her mother, Ashley Meek said. “This is not uncommon. I’m a textile designer and I do apparel design, so I have so many boxes of samples and scraps and things, so she puts together her own designs all the time.”

Of course, the children had very different collages.

“We could take the same art work, because we kind of are here, and you can see that no two kids are going to end up at the same place,” Schlageck said. “I think that’s the real goal in this classroom,” she said.

“The goal is for the kids to follow their own lead.”

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