Clinton Middle School participates every year in a program called the Olympics of the Visual Arts, or OVA for short. OVA is a state-wide competition where middle school children have the opportunity to participate in long term art projects outside of the classroom. These art projects fall under categories. This year there were six: Fashion Design, Graphic Design, Drawing, Sculpture, Painting, and Architecture. Each section has a group and each group has a prompt. The program usually begins in the late fall with the kids brainstorming, conceptualizing, and visual problem solving. The competition itself is not held until April.
Beginning last year, Hamilton students interested in the arts have gone to the school each Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to provide support, feedback, and inspiration to their middle school counterparts. The students are paired up with a section such as Graphic Design or Architecture and stay with that group for the rest of the project. The exchange of ideas and methods of conceptualization really helps both the college and the middle school students to engage with the project.
Because OVA is an afterschool program, most of the materials the middle school students use are scrap left lying around or scrounged up from families. This year, for the first time, Clinton’s OVA program was able to buy new materials. In the fall, with the help of the Wellin Initiative for Student Engagement, the mentorship program raised about $500 dollars for art supplies for the middle school. Some of the art supplies bought were typical items such as foam core, jewelry wire, the ever important glitter, and good quality paint. Some less typical items included wooden dowels, rope, and faux moss. This enabled the students to produce projects more consistent with their vision and give them a greater chance of winning the competition.
The program isn’t just about producing the best artwork possible, though. It’s also about building community, learning to play with your hands, and having fun. The Hamilton Mentors all really enjoyed their experiences with the program. Connor “Their [the OVA mentees] ideas are also really refreshing and the kids are so responsive to my advice. The OVA program has been a great experience for me and is definitely something I'd like to continue with; Even though Monday is usually my busiest day of the week, it's definitely worth making time for,” says Connor Crutchfield, a varsity lacrosse player and an art minor. Connor worked with the students in the Drawing section, helping them to build and design a zoetrope. For those who may not know, a zoetrope is an early form of animation that involves pictures drawn or painting onto a circular object that is then spun. When the zoetrope is spinning, it creates a small, looping animation. This project is a perfect example of how ambitious these middle school students can get.