‘A lesson well-learned’

I enjoyed talking with Bill, an artist and art teacher at Providence Academy. It was great hearing his enthusiasm about how well his eighth grade students did on a college level test.

A lesson well-learned on the beauty of art: Class strikes all “A’s” in college-level test at Providence

Published in Herald & Tribune June 17, 2014 issue

Eight students at Providence Academy have gotten the art history bug — and they’ve got the scores to prove it.

“I am real proud of the whole class,” said Bill Bledsoe, a Jonesborough artist who also teaches at Providence and was responsible for administering the Art History Competition test, a college level test given to eighth grade students.

One of his students, Parker Barnes, even scored a perfect score.

“I felt good about it, but I wasn’t sure,” said Barnes, 14, of earning the only 100 percent. “I’m really blessed that I had the chance to take the test.”

The other students who participated and scored in the high 90s — ranging from 96 and 98 to five 99s — were Abbi Stuart, Isabel Dillon, Caroline Koscak, Jordan Spano, Trinity Owens, Hope Olds and Clara Reynolds.

Bledsoe said he began giving the Art History Competition test to eighth grade students four years ago at Providence Academy because he feels art history is such an important part of studio art. Bledsoe teaches both subjects at the academy.

Out of approximately 40 students who enroll in his art history class, three quarters of them earn an A, he said.

“It was an option to take the competition test,” Barnes said. “I kind of thought I would give it a shot. Why not?”

The first year the test was given, five eighth-grade students participated, all earning A’s. Bledsoe said the highest test score the first year was a 97, which was followed by a 98 the following year. The next year two students received a 99.5 percent.

The Art History Competition includes a cumulative test that covers major artists from the Renaissance to Early Modernism period.

Each student is tested on his or her ability to list more than 80 artists, their nationalities, trademarks and major works of art. The students are also required to answer more than 30 discussion questions related to the artists, artwork and period of art, as well as identifying slides of paintings or details of that painting.

“This competition test. They have to answer twice as many questions as a regular student has to answer on a regular test,” Bledsoe said. “What is unique about that is these tests are college level. The only difference between my test and the college level is I have discussion questions instead of essay questions.”

Bledsoe said the discussion questions are more difficult to answer than essay questions because his students have to be concise while still providing all major points in a paragraph.

“They have to answer it as if I knew nothing about it and they have to give me examples,” he said.

In order for students to earn a 100 on the test, they have to be able to identify every single artist in chronological order and spell everything correctly.

“If they misspell the name of the artist, the whole thing is wrong,” Bledsoe said.

Barnes said the test was pretty hard.

In preparation for the test, she said, “I made index cards for each artist and went over them for two and a half hours. Then I had to look up the slides that he showed us and studied that for an hour.”

Parker said the test taught her how each movement came along and how the movements differed. Her favorite period is impressionism with artist Georges Seurat because, she said, when stepping back from the painting she can see one big picture.

“When you step back it looks clear,” Parker said.

Bledsoe has his art history students two days a week one semester and three days a week the second semester. He said he teaches his class in a lecture fashion, where the students take notes from slides and what he shares, due to the class not having a textbook.

“It is really more about the kids and their willingness to sink their teeth into it and get excited about it to do a test at that level,” Bledsoe said.

He said the students have developed an appreciation of art from a historical point of view.

“If you are going to do artwork, you need to be excited about art history,” Bledsoe said.

Although Parker is thinking about becoming a pediatrician after graduating from high school, she will continue to pursue art the next four years at Providence Academy.

“The thing I enjoy the most about art is you can express yourself through it,” she said.

To view pictures of the students, visit: http://heraldandtribune.com/Detail.php?Cat=LIFESTYLES&ID=61561


Snow falling

This afternoon as I opened our door the cold breeze kissed my face and sent a chill to my toes. My purse was slung over my shoulder, my mini computer tucked under my arm and keys in hand ready to lock the door. As soon as I turned around and looked at our trees, which are now almost empty of leaves, I saw little white speckles float through the air cascading to the ground. I instantly got my phone out so I could take pictures, which didn’t seem to be enough, so I started recording this beautiful site. It was snowing!

Well my fingers started to become frozen, so I walked to the car a few steps away in a rather rushed motion, so I could get out of the cold. I opened the car door, set all my stuff on the passenger side and looked at my black jacket, and my dark hair, both full of little snow balls. I couldn’t help it a smile crept across my face.

I turned on the car and my dashboard starting flashing telling me the roads may be icy, again a little smile spread across my face. Well, like they say there is no better time than the present, so I put the car in reverse and went on my way to Greeneville to do my in-person interview with an artist.

You see, although I lived in Illinois once upon a time, we moved to Florida when I was only 8-years-old, many years before getting my driver’s license, many years before the thought of driving crossed my mind.

So, as I drove down our driveway I was thinking, “oh my gosh I am driving for the first time in snow!” I have to admit I was a little nervous about it, but as soon as I turned down the road that took me to the interstate the nerves started slowly going away. I actually became emotional. The emotions started deep down and slowly made its way up to my throat where I fought back a few tears. You ask why? I have no idea. Maybe it’s because this is Jason and my first winter together in a state that actually has a winter, maybe because I was driving in snow for the first time, who knows.

It snowed the entire ride to Greeneville (40+ miles) and the farther I drove from home the larger the flakes became. It was an experience like no other.

I’m used to driving in the rain. After living in Florida for most of my life, it became second nature to flip on your lights, turn on the wipers and drive until you reach your destination.

It was crazy driving, and having these, what looked like little cotton balls, hitting my windshield. It was incredible really. I felt like a little girl seeing snow for the first time. It was almost like there was a little wind tunnel right in front of my windshield grabbing a hold of all these little white circles that hit the windshield before flying off the side or onto the roof.

As soon as I arrived at Lawrence’s house, I apologized for being a little late. Yep, I was a little cautious driving in these new conditions, so my lead foot drove the speed limit and at times a little below.

We instantly hit it off . . . he lived in Fort Lauderdale for 30 years after growing up in Chicago as a child. I love interviewing artist, especially this gentleman because of his love for animals. His paintings were incredible, each set of animal’s eyes drew you into the painting.

I have to be honest when the interview was over and I said my goodbyes, I was a little disappointed that the snow stopped.  But with that said, I made it home a lot faster.

I remember driving the entire way home excited to tell Jason about my new adventure. His excitement matched mine . . . he said he stuck his head out of the door at work a couple of times to look at the snow, which in Johnson City he said were a good size.

So now that I drove in my first snow, the next battle to tackle, the ice!

It’s in the high 20’s right now and I plan on getting up early to exercise before my hectic day begins with writing. I wonder what kind of weather conditions I will face then.