“Canyonlands has always been my favorite [National Park Service] location,” Hucko said. “It was only logical and appropriate that we get our children into the landscape they live in.”
During October and November, approximately 200 third- and fourth-grade students were given the opportunity to paint their own vision of Canyonlands. The resulting paintings will be on display at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 East 100 North, until Feb. 28. The art exhibit will serve as the lead event to kickoff a series of activities in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Canyonlands being designated a national park.
The art project was funded in part by the Bates Wilson Legacy Fund/Friends of Arches and Canyonlands as a collaborative effort to help celebrate the Canyonlands anniversary, Hucko said. Funding was also provided by the WabiSabi Make a Difference Fund, the Grand County Education Foundation, the HMK Arts Committee, Back of Beyond Bookstore and Desert West Office Supply.
Hucko coordinated with two other teachers, Shannon Scherer and Sarah Hamingson, to help the students learn acrylic, pastel and watercolor painting. The students were then taken out to the Island in the Sky portion of Canyonlands where they were expected to complete one plein air painting of the park.
With three kids attending HMK, Angela Book has been on several field trips with the school, but she said that the trip out to Canyonlands was by far one of the best she’s been on.
“The kids were all engaged,” she said. “It was a great way to let them be themselves.”
Book’s two daughters, Harlie, 8, and Chloe, 11, were both on the trip as well. While Harlie was painting with her class, Chloe was asked to come along and work as an assistant, helping the younger kids with their paintings.
This is the second year the school has done the project, and Hucko said that it’s a good experience for the older kids like Chloe Book because it gives them a chance to become the teachers.
“They got to sit on the rocks on the cliff and look down and picture the entire thing,” Chloe Book said. “But it can’t be realistic. It had to be different colors.”
Harlie Book said that, at first, she was kind of scared because they were so close to the ledge, but by the end, she really enjoyed herself. “I looked at a small area that was really far away, and I tried to make it bigger so it looked closer,” she said.
Tanner Riley, 10, said it was awesome to paint outside with his classmates, and that he enjoyed the chance to learn something new. He also said he was proud that other people will have a chance to see what he and his classmates painted.
Nine-year-old Jaimin Sadoff was excited to be one of four students whose art was selected to hang at Zax Restaurant. She was also presented with a gift certificate from the restaurant.
Sadoff, the daughter of Dave and Jen Sadoff, said that she really enjoyed the trip out to Canyonlands. “Art is my favorite subject,” she said. “I actually think school is kind of boring, so it was a good day.”
Hucko said the project focuses on the third- and fourth-grade classes for several reasons.
“It ties directly in with the curriculum they’re working on in class,” he said, adding that the students are also old enough to work independently but young enough that they will be staying at HMK for a few more years. “With the sixth-graders we wouldn’t have a chance to capitalize on the skills before they moved on.
The students will hold a grand opening celebration for the exhibit on Jan. 18 at the MARC. Hucko will select students from the classes to teach painting techniques to any children who are interested from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ton Jan. 18, and the official opening will start at 4 p.m.
“This is our backyard,” Hucko said. “People come here because of what it looks like. The town wouldn’t be what it is today if it looked like Crescent Junction.”