Learning More Than Paper Making: A Community Effort

Jade Hoyer and Sequoyah Elementary Students 10-8-2021
Jade Hoyer, artist in residence at Arkansas Tech University, walks students from Sequoyah Elementary through the steps in making recycled handmade paper on Friday, Oct. 8.

Jade Hoyer grew up near the shores of Lake Michigan. She lives in Colorado among the Rocky Mountains. One of the reasons she pursued the Arkansas Tech University fall 2021 artist in residence position was the opportunity to explore the Ozark Mountains.

During the week of Oct. 4-8, Hoyer shared her love of nature with students at Sequoyah Elementary School in Russellville by teaching them how to make handmade paper from recycled paper pulp.

“It’s been fantastic to be able to engage with students of this age group,” said Hoyer. “In my normal day-to-day life I’m a college professor, so witnessing the enthusiasm these kids are demonstrating has made me so excited about my own art practice.”

Fourth grade students at Sequoyah processed 20 pounds of paper by tearing it into 1-inch squares. The paper was then pulped and dyed, at which point the Sequoyah fourth graders were taught the process for converting the recycled material into paper.

The recycled, handmade paper created by the Sequoyah students will become part of a large-scale mural that Hoyer is creating as her artist in residence project for Arkansas Tech. The final product, which will be completed with assistance from ATU student Erica Hampton, will be publicly displayed in Russellville.

“The kids from Sequoyah truly will have contributed to every part of it, both in the obvious way that they helped make the paper and prepare the pulp that formed the paper, but also conceptually, in their reflecting on their connections to this region,” said Hoyer. “My hope is the project is a reflection on belonging and place, that the work reflects on this landscape as well as the experiences we have there that make such a place home to us.”

Ashley Kinsey, art teacher at Sequoyah Elementary, explained the interdisciplinary aspect of the project made it a perfect fit for Sequoyah’s mission as a STEAM school that integrates science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

“Art advocacy is very important to me, so anytime art can be connected to other disciplines and other areas is awesome,” said Kinsey. “Jade brought in this project and she introduced the kids to environmental sustainability. I’ve been inspired by how purposeful she is and how she has thought through such a complicated process in order to adapt it for our (Sequoyah Elementary) students. She has renewed my thought processes as an art educator. As a result, our students are participating in something that has a lot of depth and meaning to it. I feel like I have succeeded at my job when I play a role in pushing my students to be better members of society.”

Another benefit of the project was it provided ATU art education students with an opportunity to gain real-world experience in an elementary art classroom.

Madison Deen of Denison, Texas, is one of those ATU students. She was part of the team that led the Sequoyah students through the papermaking process on Friday, Oct. 8.

“Because of COVID, I missed my observation semester completely,” said Deen. “This is good experience for all of us to be able to come in, work with kids and actually be in a classroom. I’m amazed at all of the opportunities in art these (elementary) students receive. I didn’t have any of this growing up.”

Kinsey said she intentionally organizes her curriculum like she would for a high school classroom and then adapts activities to the state and national standards for teaching art to elementary students.

“I like to set their standard very high, and they always meet it,” said Kinsey. “Students at this age are capable of a lot more than you think they are. I knew this project would be a little more intense, but the kids knocked it out of the park.”

Hoyer is assistant professor of art at Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colo. She is the third artist in residence in Arkansas Tech history. Manami Ishimura (spring 2019) and Tiffany Black (spring 2020) fulfilled that role under the original $100,000 grant the Windgate Foundation made to the ATU Foundation in 2018 to create ATU’s artist in residence program as well as a summer professional development program for Arkansas K-12 art teachers.

The Windgate Foundation has since made an additional grant of $610,000 to the ATU Foundation to continue those programs and help create an endowment intended to provide scholarship assistance to students in the ATU Department of Art pursuing educational opportunities in traditional fine arts, studio practices and art education.

Learn more about the ATU Department of Art at www.atu.edu/art.

Madison Deen, Arkansas Tech University art education student, works with fourth graders from Sequoyah Elementary School.
Caroline Larkin, Arkansas Tech University art education student, works with fourth graders from Sequoyah Elementary School.