GO CAPS: Area Art Teachers Learn How Art and Manufacturing Intersect
In addition to actually hosting high school juniors and seniors on-site, area businesses can get involved in GO CAPS in various ways. One of them is to host not high school students, but teachers. One local business that has offered teachers several days’ worth of hands-on experience to take back to their classes is Elemoose, a Springfield business that fabricates signage, exhibits, sculptures, stage sets and more for clients across the country including Silver Dollar City, Dunkin’ Donuts, Disney, Bass Pro, Six Flags, and Dollywood. I wasn’t able to get together with the Elemoose folks in time for this piece, because they are currently up to their necks in putting together a major proposal for a big client. But I did talk to two area art teachers who spent four days last summer working with the artisans and technicians at Elemoose. It’s what GO CAPS calls its “Extern” program.
“Last year, at the end of the year, they told us that GO CAPs—there was an opportunity to do the Externships part of it, where the teachers would go to businesses in the community so that we could see what skills businesses were looking for, for our students. And I thought that would be an interesting opportunity for art students, because they don’t necessarily always know what opportunities are out there beyond being an ‘artist.’ And it’s an opportunity for me to kind of discover how to better prepare them for the opportunities that might exist.”
That’s Bethany Kelly, who is only in her second year teaching art at Central High School in Springfield, but who was already thinking outside the box about what more she might be able to provide her students in terms of preparation for life beyond high school. She was one of two art teachers who went to Elemoose to learn what that company does. The other is a veteran of 25 years teaching art: Matt Locke of Reeds Spring High School.
“So I’ve been around a while,” admits Matt. “And with my knowledge, I know that the arts touch everything. You can’t walk outside and look at anything that’s man-made that hasn’t been touched by an artist in some way. So I was eager to see what they did with that.”
Bethany describes her and Matt’s experience at Elemoose. “We were there for four days, and that allowed us to see several different aspect of the production side of things. So we got to see, specifically, some of their larger machines that I would not have guessed Springfield had any of! Also, to see how their ‘community’ works together to do each of the processes. It’s not like one person does the entire process start-to-finish. It’s very much production line, like manufacturing would be. It’s just more ‘art-based,’ I guess you could say, because they’re making some sort of visual element at the end.
Adds Matt Locke, “There are a ton of jobs in art—you just need to know where to go to put it in. And Elemoose is a perfect example of so many different disciplines in art. Just an amazing, amazing place.”
The experience was especially eye-opening for Bethany Kelly. “Well, I didn’t think I would get placed with an arts-specific kind of company—again, I didn’t even know they existed in Springfield. So I was really looking more for, in a broader sense, how companies in general are using the arts, or using communication in a visual sense, to help communicate their ideas to people—because I think that’s what art is about: communication. And so how can I help students become better communicators as we create images for advertising, or logos for your clients, or Elemoose, where you’re creating something big—all of those things.”
And she says it’s had a direct effect on her classroom instruction techniques this school year at Central High. “All of my lessons I’ve started to kind of revamp into ways that they have to work more collaboratively as a group.”
Matt Locke has long been an advocate for the use of the latest, most technologically advanced digital art software, and his experience at Elemoose reinforced for hi the importance of the digital revolution... but also how he might need to revise his expectations. “You don’t get a lot of commissioned artists out there that are painting portraits for people. It’s just, people think ‘art class’—you’re not going to get a job ‘doing art!’ I’ve always been very big on trying to provide the best opportunity for my students with what I think the industry standard is. And what I learned was, the real world is a cheap world! They do it the most economical way they can. So what I’m using with my kids might actually be higher-end than what they use in the industry. So I might need to re-think how I’m addressing that.”
Matt Locke, art teacher at Reeds Spring High School. He and Springfield Central High art instructor Bethany Kelly spend four days at the Elemoose plant in Springfield last summer, as that company dipped a tentative toe in the educational waters of the GO CAPS program. As Bethany says, “I don’t know if they’ve decided if they want student interns yet. I don’t see how that could hurt them in any way, to have extra help that is willing and able, and wants to learn.” Matt Locke adds, “Our internships there this summer were kind of the foot in the door, giving us some input from them on what they’re looking for in terms of student interns—and us, maybe an idea of who we would send to them.”