MOUNTAIN HOUSE — Using her blue crayon, third-grader Ashley Varghese carefully drew the outline of a curved Japanese footbridge as she tried to recreate a painting by Claude Monet in her monthly Wicklund Arts On Wheels class.

“I like the class, because it’s about famous people that drew pictures and painted,” Ashley said on Wednesday. “I like art. I like to draw.”

Wicklund Arts on Wheels was created by three mothers who had a desire to keep the arts alive in their children’s elementary school at 300 Legacy Drive.

“I wanted it for my children,” said Nichole Parker, who runs the program with Laura Puryear and Marion Trinh. “That was my driving force. It made me so sad they couldn’t do it (art) in the classroom.”

The program started out two years ago as a way for Puryear to keep art alive in her son’s classroom when he was a first-grader at Wicklund.

Last year, officials of the Wicklund School Foundation approached Puryear and asked if she would be willing to teach art lessons to all the students in kindergarten through fifth grade. She agreed and sought Parker’s help.

With the foundation providing all the supplies, Wicklund Arts On Wheels came to life in September.

“We wanted art history to be fun, but educational as well,” Puryear said. “We researched online different art projects, and tweaked it to benefit our needs and the supplies we had. We then wrote a lesson plan that included art history that was geared towards grade specific. The kindergarten (lesson) is different from the fifth grade.”

Trinh coordinates the volunteers — mostly mothers of Wicklund School children — who teach the classes. The three women create YouTube videos to explain each monthly lesson. Trinh said that gives the volunteers a set of step-by-step instructions before they enter the classroom.

“We created a list of artists we thought the kids would be interested in,” Parker said. “Month after month, we expose them to different mediums.”

Each grade has one lesson a month for a total of eight lessons from October to May. As the children have become accustomed to the program, the women said, their excitement level has increased.

“It’s mind-blowing,” Parker said. “They often shout, ‘Art On Wheels, Art On Wheels!’ when the cart is rolled into the classroom.”

On Wednesday, a group of third-graders got a lesson in the works of Monet.

As instructor Najia Hussain showed examples of different pieces by the artist on a big screen in front of the room, volunteer Denise Hinton helped the students.

Looking at the different pieces, third-grader Dante Freeman said loudly, “Oh, wow, that is beautiful.”

After a brief history lesson, the students took out their crayons, paint and brushes and began creating their own works of art.

“This is fun,” Isaac Morgan said as he spread blue paint over a section of his paper. “I like all the different colors we get to pick and experience. My favorite part is painting.”

Classmate Sofia Alea said she, too, liked painting the best.

“I’m glad we have art at my school,” she said.

On May 14, an exhibit of all of the children’s artwork will be on display in the school’s multipurpose room in a setting similar to an art gallery, Trinh said. Parents can choose to make a donation to buy their child’s art portfolio, and all of the proceeds will help keep the art program going in the coming year.

“This is a trial year, and we learn as we go,” Parker said. “We plan to continue the program for years to come.”

Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at drizzo@tracypress.com or 830-4225.

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