Barry McNamara  |   Published July 14, 2019

‘Learning to Teach’

Art professor Janis Wunderlich and local art teacher Kathy Lowe-Arthur use ceramics to work with individuals with developmental disabilities.
  • Some of the artwork that will be on display July 17-31 at the Buchanan Center for the Arts in downtown Monmouth.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College and the Warren Achievement Center collaborated to provide a memorable experience for a dozen of the center’s Achievers, thanks to a grant from Monmouth’s Buchanan Center for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council Agency and the National Endowment for the Arts.

JANIS WUNDERLICH: ?All learners, all abilities can benefit from having clay in their hands and do... JANIS WUNDERLICH: “All learners, all abilities can benefit from having clay in their hands and doing ceramics. It's very therapeutic.”Art professor Janis Wunderlich and Kathy Lowe-Arthur, the art specialist at Warren Achievement Center, helped six Achievers learn enough about ceramics so they could teach the skill to six other Achievers. Warren Achievement Center helps persons with developmental disabilities to function in the Monmouth-Warren County community.

The artwork created through the “Learning to Teach” grant will be on display at the Buchanan Center in downtown Monmouth from July 17-31. An open house reception will be held from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the first day of the exhibit.

The grant grew from last year’s storytelling project with the Achievers, said Lowe-Arthur, who taught art for 37 years, the last 33 at the junior high level in Monmouth and Roseville.

“They really enjoyed talking about their narratives and their experiences,” she said of last year’s grant, which was also provided by the Buchanan Center. “This was almost an entirely different group this year, but they were still able to tell their stories through art.”

“Clay is such a good, tactile material,” said Wunderlich. “All learners, all abilities can benefit from having clay in their hands and doing ceramics. It’s very therapeutic.”

Starting in mid-May, Wunderlich led six 90-minute sessions for the first group at the College, then held four 90-minute sessions with the next group at the Buchanan Center.

“The first group learned some new skills and then learned how to teach those skills to another group of students,” said Wunderlich. “We taught them the terminology and made sure they could identify each building technique.”

“It really drew people out,” said Lowe-Arthur. “I really enjoyed watching the camaraderie.”

“I watched them work together, and it was so wonderful to see the way they blossomed. They flourished,” said Wunderlich. “They created really beautiful pieces of art that are not like anything else, and the objects really reflect their personal experience.” Achievers had visited Wunderlich’s classes before, “but it always felt rushed,” she said. “We did small projects that they could do quickly. This grant allowed us to really work with them on time-consuming projects.”

Two Monmouth College students who live in town – Ryan Dawson ’21 and May graduate Tara Sturgeon – helped with the instruction.

“I’m always looking for opportunities to give Monmouth students to teach ceramics to anybody and everybody,” said Wunderlich, “and I also liked the service-related aspect of this particular opportunity.”

In addition to the Buchanan Center’s support, Wunderlich also acknowledged her department and the College administration, which provided the resources used by the Achievers free of charge.  

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