Art teacher has big designs for students
At Tonganoxie High School, art class isn't just about art.
This week it's about tasty treats such as French fries, Popsicles and popcorn.
And, said teacher Jessica Stukas, it's about monumental sculptures.
For an art project, Stukas asked the students, who were divided into teams, to create a larger sculpture of an everyday object.
One of the first projects completed looked good enough -- almost -- to eat.
Joey Glenn, Mallory Cartwright and Tawnye Hollbaugh built a 3-foot-tall pack of Sonic French fries.
"It was probably what we thought would be the most fun," Mallory said.
Heather Ramirez helped create a "Couch Potato Video" scene, complete with a three-dimensional 2-foot-tall couch potato made of construction paper.
"This is my favorite project," Heather said.
And Lona Dickinson was part of a team that manufactured a 5-foot-tall cherry red Popsicle.
Lona said the Popsicle was made with cardboard, Styrofoam and a wooden stick.
"We painted drips to make it look like it's melting," Lona said.
Lona, a senior at Tonganoxie High School, said she plans to attend cosmetology school next year, and later to study at a fashion college in Los Angeles.
This is the only art class she's taken, Lona said, adding she wants to learn to weave and make jewelry in art class this year.
Among the other projects still in the works is a 6-foot-long arrow, which represents the high school's Chieftain theme.
Stukas has big plans for her students. For instance, she's hoping the school's art club members will be able to take a trip to New York City later this school year. To start raising money for a possible trip, the students will sell T-shirts.
She expects the first order of shirts -- 200 of them -- to arrive in the next few days.
It's going to be a challenge to raise the money for the trip, Stukas said.
"It's going to take a lot of dedication, a lot of being out there," Stukas said. "We're going to be at every game to sell them."
If the students do get to make the trip, stops will likely include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ground Zero, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and, perhaps, a Broadway show, she said.
In the meantime, Stukas is focusing on the school year.
Her students will learn to weave, cast jewelry, dye fabric, make ceramics, use a potter's wheel and do book binding.
"We're just trying to so do many new things," she said.
And, Stukas would like to generate communication between other area artists in the area and her students.
Her students are talented, Stukas said, as she looked at their ceramic projects.
"You should see some of these things," Stukas said. "They're absolutely gorgeous."
And she has plans to show her students' projects to the public at a spring reception.
"I want to have a gallery show at the end of the year for the seniors," Stukas said. "They'll learn how to mat them and they'll learn how to hang them in a show room. ... I want the community to come in to see what these kids are doing because it's amazing."
New to Kansas
Stukas is a newcomer to Kansas, having moved here six months ago after spending her life in Pittsburgh, Pa.
She moved to Lawrence because her father, who was moving out of the country temporarily, suggested she take care of his house while he was gone.
"It's a very big change," Stukas said of life in the Lawrence and Tonganoxie area. "It's so much smaller for me from being in the inner city and big city, but I love it, I can't imagine going back to Pittsburgh at all."
Stukas graduated from Carlow College in Pittsburgh last December, receiving a bachelor's degree in art education and certification in art therapy.
She has provided art therapy to adults who are mentally disabled or who have mental illnesses or drug addictions.
Art therapy helps patients open up, be creative and relieve stress, Stukas said.
And although Stukas didn't have a job when she moved to Lawrence, she soon applied for the Tonganoxie teaching position.
"I'm probably going to teach forever," Stukas said. "I would love to open up my own gallery -- that is my long-term goal. I want to have a gallery that doesn't just bring in notable artists, I want to have the gallery open to schools and to the senior classes."