Ann Freistadt opens a new art school on Queen Anne

There is no such thing as too much art instruction, and Queen Anne is fortunate to be able to welcome another children's art instructor to the neighborhood. Ann Freistadt moved to Seattle from Yakima in December, to be closer to her three grown sons. She brings with her an enthusiasm for teaching children art, and experience.

Freistadt attended Cornish College of the Arts in the '70s and has taken many art classes since. Fourteen years ago, in Yakima, a friend begged her to start an art class for her three young daughters. Freistadt obliged, teaching them in her home. Word spread. A month later she had 15 students, and she moved the class to Yakima's Allied Arts Center.

For a while, Freistadt also taught adults. She loved it, but gave it up because she found that most adults are too busy to attend classes regularly.

As do most art instructors, Freistadt teaches the elements of art (such as line, shape and color) and principles of design (balance, contrast, movement). Sometimes she finds herself teaching math, because artists have to calculate proportion.

She also teaches her students to leave little or no white space. "This is not just for artistic reasons," she says, "but because it teaches them patience."

Now she is teaching art history as well. A few years ago, Freistadt began to offer an international curriculum. Why? "Because it's interesting," she says. "My students are more enthusiastic when I teach this way.

"We study artists from around the world," she continues, "dead and alive, male and female. We learn about the artist's life, and we listen to music from the artist's country of origin while we create art inspired by them." While studying Picasso, they listen to Spanish guitar music; Cézanne, French café music; and so on.

Freistadt's younger students actually copy a particular work of art, following her step-by-step as she dem-onstrates on a large piece of paper in front of the class. "We begin by drawing," she says. "When we're done with that step, it looks like a page in a coloring book."

She adds that realistic drawing is the basis of her teaching. "We don't do much abstract work," she says.

After the students have finished their drawing, they color it in. Because Freistadt doesn't have a sink readily available, cleaning up oil and other types of paint would be difficult, so the students use Prismacolor markers. Alcohol-based (as opposed to water-based), these markers last a long time, and the colors remain vibrant on paper.

Doesn't this method inhibit development of a child's unique style? "Not at all," says Freistadt. "For starters, the original artist solved a problem - depth perception, for example. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Also, the results are still all different; they're still each child's work."

The value of following her is that she breaks the artistic process down into small, doable steps. "It teaches them how not to get overwhelmed," says Freistadt.

"As kids grow and gain skill and confidence," she continues, "they branch out." Rather than copying an artist's work, they are more loosely inspired by it. One such project was inspired by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo's "The Little Deer," which shows Kahlo's antlered face on a deer's body. Freistadt asked her students to choose an animal that personifies their own personalities and create similar self-portraits. "One child was a lion; another was a koala bear," she says. "It was quite a menagerie."

This approach to teaching art is becoming less unusual, even in demand, because of the Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs). In an effort to improve educational standards in Washington, the EALRs were created in 1993 by the State Commission on Student Learning to define expectations for student achievement in eight academic areas, including the arts. Section 1.3 of the arts EALRs states that the student will "understand and apply arts styles from various artists, cultures, and times."

Freistadt's classes began the week of April 3 in the Queen Anne Baptist Church, which also houses two preschools plus children's dance classes. "It really will be a center for children!" says Freistadt.

She can teach up to 60 children, ages 4-18, Monday through Thursday. The cost is $18 per week for children ages 4 to 6, and $20 per week for children ages 7 to 18; supplies are included. Sessions last eight weeks. Class length is 75 minutes for younger children, 90 minutes for older children.

Currently only younger children are enrolled. They will begin by studying a favorite of Freistadt's past students, Seattle artist Jacob Lawrence. "He simplifies what they're looking at," she says, "and they love his colorfulness. They don't mind that he's not playful." Most of Lawrence's art has serious subjects, like work and slavery.

During this session, students will listen to jazz of the 20th century.

To date, Freistadt has limited projects to two-dimensional ones. She can't teach pottery, for example, because she does not have access to a kiln. But she may soon have her students try working with Model Magic, a pre-colored clayish substance that dries without being fired in a kiln.

If older students enroll, she may also have them try doing repoussé, a technique of ornamenting metallic surfaces with designs hammered from the back by hand. (This process is distinct from embossing, in which the relief ornament is produced with dies.) She would have students work with copper.

Among those famous for repoussé is 16th-century Italian artist Benve-nuto Cellini, who has gone down in history as a goldsmith, sculptor, author, soldier and "hooligan" - a true Renaissance man. Perhaps, listening to Italian lute music, Freistadt's students will be inspired by his work.

Registration is still open. To register for classes, e-mail or call 225-6868.

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