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MHS expands popular fine arts program

Mitchell High School sophomores Kennedy Kahler, left, and Kaylee Nygaard answer questions about fabric fabric design during Mrs. Marica Shannon's Craft Class on Tuesday. (Matt Gade / Republic)1 / 3
Mitchell High School sophomore Emily Thompson paints her fabric while Bailey Elinger, back, also works on his fabric design during Mrs. Marica Shannon's Craft Class on Tuesday. (Matt Gade / Republic)2 / 3
Mitchell High School art teacher Mrs. Marica Shannon demonstrates batiking, a technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to cloth, during her Craft Class on Tuesday. (Matt Gade / Republic)3 / 3

Mitchell High School is getting creative.

This year, MHS expanded its fine arts curriculum and has 570 students enrolled in art electives for an average class size of 26 students, compared to 21 students five years ago.

The school also brought back the Design 121 course, which offers a dual college credit.

"We definitely try to help these kids develop their skill sets, so that they can become more divergent in their thinking and raise beyond the norm, becoming problem solvers and idea makers," art teacher Marica Shannon said.

MHS previously had three partial-time and full-time art teachers, but was struggling last year to offer all the classes that the district wanted to offer its students when art teacher Sharon Johnson retired from her part-time position.

"We are excited that Design 121 is back and are currently working with Dakota Wesleyan University to get our photography class as another dual credit class," Shannon said.

MHS now offers a total of nine fine arts electives: Pottery, graphic design, photography, drawing, painting, sculpting and Design 121.

Shannon is in her 25th year of teaching and has been a driving force in finding funds and earning art grants for her students, bringing in new technology, materials and equipment.

"I think it's the hands-on process and the ability to create your own idea or design while expressing yourself within your work," she said. "That's really the part of art that fills a person's soul. I think for students it's something different than constantly being in front of a computer. Not that we do not integrate technology, it's an important part of what we do. When our students take pictures of their work and show it to others, there's a real sense of pride in that."

Just Tuesday, Shannon and her colleague Allyson Palmer were recognized by the school board for their efforts in obtaining additional grants adding $2,000 to their budget for this semester.

"The program has been an enormous success, which I credit to both of our art teachers Mrs. Shannon and Mrs. Palmer," said principal Joe Childs. "They have put a lot of emphasis on the program and have both been very successful. I think that there success in grant writing and developing a robust art program offers the students exactly what they need."

Regardless of whether the students pursue a post-secondary degree arts or a potential career in those fields, the teachers and students involved believe the creative thinking and problem solving skills acquired can be put to good use in other professions.

"I like that the school gives us so many choices," said sophomore Kennedy Kahler, 15. "They have different classes you can choose from and offer a wide range of programs from pottery, crafts, photography to sculpting. I like creating my own art, it's more original and personal. ... The skills l learn in art, like the creative thinking process, will help me."

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