‘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


“Arguably stand the test of time”

Murals highlight Jonesborough events

Published in Herald & Tribune June 3, 2014 issue

A splash of color has been added to the wrought iron fence behind Boone Street Market bringing additional character to downtown Jonesborough through the images of murals.

McKinney Center Director Theresa Hammons said an unveiling of the murals took place May 23 in conjunction with The Farmers Market open house.

“The plaza has been redone for a couple of years now,” she said. “The original idea was to have the murals there. It really makes the plaza look fantastic.”

Bill Bledsoe, who designed the four murals, said the Town of Jonesborough had asked him if he had any ideas for the metal dividers that are a part of the accent wall. He said over the years he and his wife have walked past the buildings and dividers more than 100 times, as ideas have formulated in his mind of what could be done.

Since there are so many events that take place in Jonesborough that are related to seasons, he thought each panel could represent winter, spring, summer and fall.

“I created an illustration that references the Garden Gala, the Jonesborough Days, storytelling and the Progressive Dinners,” Bledsoe said.

The first series of murals was created as miniature drawings. He said those original pieces were enlarged and received very well.

In an effort to involve students from both the Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts and Providence Academy, Bledsoe drew out the schematic of the image in thick black marker. He said the idea was to have the youngsters paint between the lines in any color they chose.

Thirty students from the Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts at the McKinney Center contributed to one of the murals, while Bledsoe’s students from Providence Academy left their artistic touches on the remaining three.

“We had students this semester that were taking basic drawing, studio art, hand building clay and mosaic classes,” Hammons said.

She said the McKinney Center hosted a student art exhibition reception on May 8, which also included the opportunity for the students to paint some color onto the mural.

“All of those students came that evening and helped paint the murals,” Hammons said. “We had refreshments and drinks, and then they painted.”

Bledsoe also worked with his secondary students at Providence throughout the week so they could be included in the process. He said his students were intimately involved in the process as they watched him work on the mural, as well as having a personal hand in the creation.

“They watched me compose it and do it as a blind contour and refine it and develop the line drawing,” Bledsoe said.

The students used the primary colors of red, yellow and blue paints for the murals.

“When you look at all those oranges, greens and purples, they were all made from red, yellow and blue,” he said.

Once the colors, drawings and sayings were completed on the murals, Bledsoe painted a glaze on top.

“I had to go back on top of them and work on them,” he said. “I did layers, so the writing and colors could be seen when you get up close to it.”

Bledsoe said he was very happy with how the murals turned out, especially the Jonesborough Days mural, which was his favorite.

“It is so powerful when you look at it from a distance,” he said. “When you get up to it, you see the colors.”

The murals, Bledsoe said are pieces of artwork that can arguably stand the test of time and mean something to the people of Jonesborough for years to come.

Karen Childress, executive director of Boone Street Market, said in conjunction with the unveiling of the artwork and the celebration of the beautification of the plaza, Jonesborough Locally Grown announced that the renovation and expansion of the Boone Street Market will begin in June.

“The reason we are at the jumping off point (and) able to start renovation, is that Jonesborough Locally Grown has had a successful fundraising campaign, raising close to $80,000 earmarked for the building renovation through the support of individuals, civic clubs, organizations, businesses and the county commission,” she said.

Those who attended the store “before” open house also had an opportunity to see the building before renovations began, as well as an opportunity to preview the project’s floor plan.

Childress said they are turning the garage area into the sales and display floor for the grocery store area, which will have an assortment of food products produced within 100 miles of Jonesborough. The floor plan also showed the current restroom area being gutted and turned into kitchen space.

“The current entry door will be an itsy bitsy cafe area as you go into the store,” Childress said.

The building will also have the addition of new restrooms and storage areas.

“The whole store idea is not a replacement of the Saturday market, it’s an expansion of it,” she said. “It will compliment the Saturday market.”

An announcement also was made regarding the Friends of Locally Grown during the “before” open house. Memberships are $50 annually and are available at the Saturday market or online at http://www.jonesborough.locallygrown.net.

Childress said the memberships will support the start up and ongoing operating costs of the store and Jonesborough Locally Grown. All members will receive a 5 percent discount on store purchases once the store opens.

The market is tentatively scheduled to open sometime in July, and a job description for a full-time manager to staff the store will be publicized in June.