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Multicultural Spotlight: Salish art students study Native portraits (4/11/19)


Students enjoying a presentation. It’s not every day students get to go on a field trip, much less one to the Tacoma Art Museum. Thanks to a grant from the North Thurston Education Foundation, students from Olivia Smaciarz’s 7th/8th studio art class at Salish Middle School had this opportunity recently. The guided tour focused on a special exhibit: Native Portraiture, Power & Perception.

Students in the art project room at the musuem. “They explored new topics, engaged in critical thinking and were able to discover messages through visual analysis,” said Smaciarz of the once-in-a-lifetime experience. The students also had an hour of hands-on artmaking: Tools of Expression.

The exhibit included works by both Native and non-Native artists and explored the history of how indigenous people and cultures are represented in art.

“It taught me a lot about the perspectives of Native Americans and how people perceive them,” said Kiara, one of the Salish students. “The whole experience was really fun and I’m happy I went. I learned a lot of new art techniques and it was just a really nice space.”

Her fellow classmates Cassie and Olivia agreed. “(We) learned about Native American art and what it means to people, and how people of different ethnicities see each other. It was a really enjoyable experience and was really fun. Our favorite part was making art!”

Teacher Smaciarz is grateful for the grant which helped her students reach National Art Standards that are “more difficult to meet in a classroom setting” and learn about Tools of Expression artists use to communicate their identity by creating work of their own with choice mediums. “ The entire experience was a memory I’ll never forget!” she said. “Seeing students build relationships and learn how to interact with art, as artists, were highlights of the trip.”