ALLEGANY, NY -- While rain streaked the outside window of the Cattaraugus County Arts Council building in downtown Allegany Wednesday, eight children inside the building silently gathered around a small redheaded girl.
She was kneeling on the ground in front of a square canvas covered with thick lines of fresh paint. Behind her, art teacher Fay Bleier of Limestone helped guide a thin sheet of plastic across the canvas, catching and dragging the various colors of wet paint into one another. Pink, blue, light green and black formed distinct patterns as they glided across the canvas.
As she finished, Bleier smiled at the little girl and said, “Good job, Ginger! Who’s ready next?”
Ginger and the other seven had been "sliding," which Bleier described as a "pour paint" style that involves streaking a canvas with thick lines of colors, then dragging a plastic sheet across the canvas to create a pattern before the paint dries.
These children, ages 4 to 7, were participants in the New Artists group of the ArtVenture Winter Camp hosted by the arts council during February school break. From 9 to 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, the New Artists worked on daily themed projects involving various styles of pour painting. An older group of children, ages 7 to 11, participated in the Young Artists group from 10:30 to noon.
Bleier explained that “pour painting involves taking cups with different colors of acrylic paint and mixing them with glue, water and a bit of silicone before pouring them onto a canvas to create an interesting pattern.”
A freelance art teacher from Limestone, Bleier taught both ArtVenture groups a different pour painting technique each day.
Monday they did "flip cup," filling three cups with four layers of color, putting the cups on a plate, covering the cups and plate with a canvas and flipping them over.
Tuesday they did "ringing," layering all available colors into one cup, then using a spoon to ladle the mixture into quarter-size circles all over the canvas.
Thursday they did "ribboning," mixing four colors into three different combinations in three cups, then pouring the paint out of the cups in zigzag patterns across the canvas.
And Friday, they did the "tip cup," choosing one color for each of four cups, then pouring each into the center of the canvas in alternating patterns, letting the colors spread from the middle.
As the New Artists squealed with excitement and knocked paint cups over on the table, Bleier's assistant Megan Zampogna, who also is her daughter, helped everyone clean up and stay focused. Navigating the chaos of the large art room, Zampogna encouraged the children, giving them tips and letting them solve problems on their own whenever possible.
“It’s been fun volunteering; the kids are always amazing,” Zampogna said, noting this week-long camp marked mother and daughter's first time working at the camp.
Cattaraugus Arts Council Executive Director Tina Hastings said that the camp provides children multiple opportunities to work creatively.
“This medium allows kids to be creative without worrying if their work is okay,” Hastings said.
Along with serving the children lessons they may not find in their school arts programs, Hastings said that some of the goals of the camp are to keep kids productive over winter break and provide relief to busy parents.
At the far end of the art table away from most of the conversation, a black-haired boy named Bodhi sat hunched over his canvas. He didn't speak much during the 90-minute session. He was painting with blues and yellows as his mother, Stacey Farris, watched from her seat.
“I just wanted to try something new, get him out of the house a bit,” Farris said.
As she talked, her son continued to work on his painting, carefully spreading the paint into lines with the back of a plastic spoon.
“This program really got him into art,” Farris said. “When his father picks him up from camp, and I come home later, he always tells me how excited he is to paint the next day.”
The arts council hosts classes for other art styles at a discounted price for members. A schedule of upcoming events can be found here.
Booking information for Bleier's art classe can be found here.
Sign Up for E-News to get top stories delivered daily to your inbox.