This story originally appeared in the spring 2014 Harker Quarterly.
It’s art studio day, and the budding young artists filing into Harker Preschool’s beloved specialty class are eager to put their natural flair for all things creative to use.
Taking spots on a comfy rug in the meeting area, they listen attentively as the art specialist, Alexandria Kerekez (aka Miss Alex), patiently explains the projects they will be working on.
Before too long the spacious, sunny art studio bustles with activity, as the children move to various project stations while in the background soft piano music plays. This week in the studio they are exploring areas set up for printmaking, mixed media paintings, sponge stamping, ceramics, overhead projector drawings and creating tints using shades of yellow on the easel.
“Does this look like a good guy or a bad guy?” inquires 4-year-old Brian Le, holding up a purple painting. Then, deciding for himself, he says “I know … it’s a superhero face!”
During the art studio sessions, held at least twice a week, students like Le (who attends the preschool’s Feather Cottage classroom) can select which projects to work on.
Over at the ceramics table, Le’s classmate Ameera Ramzan, also 4, is keeping happily busy making a “pinch pot.” Sounding very much like a teacher herself, she proudly explains that to create the pot you “first roll the ball … and then you pinch it!”
According to Kerekez, preschoolers of all ages are invited into the studio to paint, work with clay, hone their pencil skills, and gain a greater ability to observe the world around them while working in a variety of media. Meanwhile, the school’s outdoor art area further allows for creative expression, where everyday things such as the sun, water and leaves can become part of a project.
Kerekez’s art classes always begin with an introduction to the day’s project and end with a fun, song-filled cleanup time followed by a reflective period where the children look back at what they have created and accomplished during their visit. Sometimes the youngsters exit the art class by cheerfully parading around the room doing a routine they now have down pat called “the studio stomp.”
A former lead preschool teacher for the San Jose State University Associated Students Child Development Center, Kerekez was named a plein air artist for the Art Box Project, commissioned to design and paint utility boxes as part of a local anti-graffiti initiative. She was awarded the 2012 Frances Guillard Award for Excellence in Music and the Arts and is co-creator of a musical, visual and creative arts program in the greater Bay Area.
“Alexandria is effervescent when discussing her work with the children. She recently put up a wonderful exhibit in our gallery as well,” says Andrea Hart, director of Harker Preschool. The exhibit, called “The Faces of Harker Preschool,” was a self-portrait show on display in January and February.
Included in the exhibit were offerings from all of the preschool’s children – from the Pebble, Clover, Acorn and Feather cottages to the transitional kindergarten (TK) crew.
“I invited each and every child to join me for a one-on-one exploration of their own unique facial features,” recalls Kerekez, noting that even some faculty and staff got in on the action by doing self-portraits for the show.
“Preschool-aged learners have captured my curiosity and heart, for they often share many of my philosophies on how to live life artfully, inquisitively, and with all of one’s senses,” adds Kerekez.
The art studio is one of several specialty classes offered at Harker Preschool. The others are the STEM lab (which was covered in the fall issue of Harker Quarterly) and music and movement. All of the specialty classes are broken up by ages, and are rich with activity centers and educational materials in each particular subject area, offering a balance between child-directed exploratory learning and teacher-directed activities.