Fourteen Woodland Elementary School first-graders stared into small mirrors Monday morning, then picked up crayons to draw self-portraits under the direction of artist-in-residence Ruthie Akuchie.
Akuchie, a 2007 Mansfield Senior High graduate and an instructor at the Mansfield Art Center, has begun a yearlong partnership with Woodland teachers. The goal is to use art to supplement the teaching of reading, writing and other core curriculum.
“Today the children are drawing self-portraits based on telling stories about themselves, how they are different and unique,” Akuchie said as she moved around the classroom of Robin Porter.
Akuchie will spend 120 days at Woodland, working with each classroom kindergarten through third grade. Her schedule includes three classrooms on Monday and Tuesday, four on Thursday. She will be paid $36,000 through a grant provided by the Ohio Arts Council.
“I will spend 45 minutes in each classroom one day a week. I will work with the teachers on what they want to accomplish,” said Akuchie, whose elementary years in Mansfield were spent in the former Brinkerhoff building, now Spanish Immersion.
Porter said the work on self-portraits has specific purposes. “It will help the children pay more attention to details, to facial expressions,” she said. “It will help them better understand when we are reading texts.”
At Senior High, Akuchie studied mixed media under art teacher Mindy Duncan before attending North Central State College. Akuchie’s biography on the Mansfield Art Center website says she has designed greeting cards and illustrated children’s books for previous clients.
“She draws inspiration from art that tells a story,” the art center web site says. “Her art shows a message of love and unity through diversity. She enjoys learning about history, other cultures, and specifically Asian cultures.”
In the photo above, Ruthie Akuchie offers pointers to children in Robin Porter’s classroom as they draw self-portraits.
Source, Photo: Mansfield City Schools