Arts event allows students to learn about comics, scrimshaw, hand chimes and more

Northeast Academy fifth-graders Kaytan Go and Nathan Castagna browse through books from comic book artist Brett Swanson's “Power Kid” series during a workshop Swanson was leading on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 1, 2018, part of the Celebrate the Arts events at the school in Mystic. (Erica Moser/The Day)
Northeast Academy fifth-graders Kaytan Go and Nathan Castagna browse through books from comic book artist Brett Swanson's “Power Kid” series during a workshop Swanson was leading on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 1, 2018, part of the Celebrate the Arts events at the school in Mystic. (Erica Moser/The Day)

Mystic — Bethany Lovering sat in a classroom at the end of the hall on the second floor, taking her time as she created scrimshaw — though on a surface that isn't whale baleen, teeth or bones.

She used a pencil to sketch a sand dollar — she collects them — onto a small piece of bone-like material and then carved into the lines with a stylus. Bethany got in line to get her scrimshaw brushed with ink, which she then wiped off, to darken the lines.

The fourth-grader was in one of several Northeast Academy Arts Magnet Elementary School classes that two Mystic Seaport educators went into on Thursday to offer a hands-on activity about scrimshaw, engravings done in ivory or bone that historically were created by whalers in their free time.

This was one of many workshops presented during the school's fifth annual Celebrate the Arts event, which also involves 22 scheduled performances during the event's run from Jan. 31 through Feb. 2.

Other workshops allowed kindergarteners to sing along with guitarist Barbara Harvey, second- and third-graders to participate in a program involving drumming and fitness, and fourth-graders to learn about hand chimes from Shoreline Ringers director Jane Nolan.

On Friday, first-graders will participate in an artistic relay race and fifth-graders will learn about Orff instruments, which include xylophones, glockenspiels and marimbas.

Each student is attending two to three workshops during Celebrate the Arts this year, whereas it was one workshop for each of the past four years.

The bulk of the planning is by orchestra director Shannon Stevenson, who feels that Celebrate the Arts shows students that "art can be a part of their entire lives."

She said the event allows children to see that they can continue with the arts even if they don't become an artist or musician, because many of the presenters are talking about a "side gig" that is "their stress relief, their passion."

A workshop that was new this year came from Brett Swanson, a Stonington resident who created the "Power Kid" comic book series.

After teaching fifth-graders about the basics of shapes 2-D versus 3-D drawing, he sketched a new set of frames.

"Let's say the dinosaur's going through downtown Mystic. That would be fun, right?" Swanson said to giggles, and he proceeded to tell the story of a hero saving the town.

Fifth-grader Gaby Ladia said this workshop was her favorite part of Celebrate the Arts so far, commenting that while the performances were fun, this allowed her to learn something new.

On Thursday evening, she would be playing trombone in the fifth-grade band's performance. Also performing from Northeast Academy are the second-grade chorus, third-grade chorus and fourth- and fifth-grade orchestra.

e.moser@theday.com

If you go

Performances scheduled for Friday at Northeast Academy Arts Magnet Elementary School, 115 Oslo St., Mystic, include:

- Cutler Middle School Orchestra, 9:30 a.m.

- UConn Men's Glee Club, 10 a.m.

- Fitch High School Chamber & Women's Choirs, 10:30 a.m.

- Panther Jazz Band, 11 a.m.

- Cutler Middle Jazz Band, 1 p.m.

- Steve Elci & Friends, 2 p.m. 

- The Fake Experience, 2:30 p.m.

They are free and open to the public.

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