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Holmen High School Grad Returns to Area to Help Young Art Lovers

July 31, 2008

By Autumn Grooms, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Jul. 31–Maria Olinger has taught special education to students in New York City with Teach For America, and this fall she will tutor children in English in Costa Rica.

But for the summer, the 2000 Holmen High School graduate has returned to the Coulee Region to teach an art enrichment class at Spence Elementary School. “This has been a dream job,” Olinger said. “This is what teaching should be like. It’s not stressful, and I enjoy coming to school.”

Olinger, 26, taught the kids about famous artists and how to work with watercolors, oil pastels and tempera paint during the three-week class that ends today.

“They love it. They’re having a great time,” she said. “And when they have fun, I can have fun.”

Nine-year-old Shae Kneipp’s notebook was nearly full Wednesday with sketches she’d completed, and a giant

rattlesnake-chipmunk-cat-vampire was selected as the imaginary creature that best fit the colored pencil picture she was working on.

“I’m going to do a huge head and eyes,” she said.

Kneipp said anything art-related is enjoyable. She said she “loves it” because “you get to be creative.”

Using his imagination to make a creature was 10-year-old Jack McDonnell’s favorite part of the class.

“I like that I can be creative with art,” he said. “I get to make what I feel, and what comes into my mind I draw.”

Zach Dickmeyer, 9, became a fan of Jackson Pollock since starting Olinger’s class.

“I like splatter painting. There are tons of different stages you get to do, and it’s way fun,” he said. “I like how you get to be creative and show your emotions on a page.”

Gunnar Schwertfeger, 9, said the students did a number of projects and made a lot of things during the class.

Some were more fun than others, he said, but really, “I’ll take any kind of art.”

The student’s work will be on display starting today at JavaVino in the Village Shopping Center.

Autumn Grooms can be reached at (608) 791-8424 or agrooms@lacrossetribune.com.

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Copyright (c) 2008, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

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