ST. MARYS — Students in 6th-through-8th grades have been gathering at the Clubhouse at Memorial Park in St. Marys every Monday and Wednesday to enjoy a class with Elk County Council on the Arts’ new residency artist.

Mickayla Poland of St. Marys is part of the AIE (Arts in Education) program. According to ECCOTA’s website, the AIE program supports artist and teacher partnerships, promotes art in schools and social service agencies and “provides professional development to teachers and artists to integrate the arts into the classroom curriculum.”

Poland, originally from California, is a self-taught painter who created “PA Made,” a business that draws inspiration from the Pennsylvania Wilds, an area abundant with wildlife and culture. She offers acrylic paintings on vintage windows, as well as other creations.

This is Poland’s first time teaching these art classes, she says. For the past couple of classes, she spent time going over foundations of art with the students, such as the color wheel and elements of art.

“We then spent a day creating a collage of magazine clippings that described each student,” she said. “This was all a foundation for a final project, which is a nontraditional self portrait.”

Each student used a large wooden puzzle piece as their canvas, Poland said.

“I encouraged them to think about symbols and objects that describe them, and then start painting,” she said. “My goal is to hopefully have a conversation about ‘self,’ and the concept behind the puzzle, like we are part of a larger whole.”

Poland said they have been doing their best to clean and sanitize everything for the students during the 10-20 day residency. This is just one of the programs offered by City of St. Marys Parks and Recreation this summer for students.

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