Coeur d’Alene Press, March 2020

Coeur d’Alene Press, March 2020

Sorensen explores skateboard art; entrepreneurial skills instilled

COEUR d’ALENE — Even though she doesn't like to eat avocados, Nell Hutchins has had a pretty awesome time designing one on her skateboard deck.

"I just thought it would be really fun and cool and creative," she said. "I like the shape and all the colors, and the layering."

She used her marker to point to the top of the dark green and yellow avocado she'd colored.

"Up here it’s pretty long, but you just have to work with it,” she said. "I also learned that you have to press really lightly and you’ll get the best color."

Nell and other Sorensen Magnet School of the Arts and Humanities fifth-graders in Crystal Bain's class pored over their masterpieces Wednesday. Each design was as unique as the student who created it: an alien spacecraft abducting a dragon, an intricate maze, a rainbow sunset, landscapes, animals, patterns, memes.

And fifth-grader Cal McDevitt's tribute to his favorite show, "The Office."

“I like it a lot,” he said, grinning as he colored around a "World's Best Boss" mug he drew in honor of Steve Carell's fictional character, Michael Scott. Although, Cal said he is more of a fan of Dwight Schrute.

"I like the comedy, just the whole storyline," Cal said.

About 180 third- through fifth-graders are exploring their inner artist and expressing that creativity on an unconventional medium this week during the school's Artist-in-Residence program with skateboard artist Mark Rivard of Minneapolis.

Rivard began his career designing skateboards using Sharpie markers and starting his own skateboard company. A lifelong skier and skateboarder, he turned to art when he blew out his knees in a skiing wreck that halted his enjoyment of the sport. But he could still enjoy the artistic aspect and soon grabbed the attention of Sharpie, which gave him an endorsement deal for a number of years.

"As I kind of became the ambassador and the face of the brand for them, I started speaking at a lot of schools,” Rivard said. "Now I’ve created an entire educational curriculum. I travel all around the world bringing skateboards to kids in schools."

He said that for Sorensen to dedicate a week to this project "is fantastic" as it lets the kids get to know the artist. He is teaching them about the business side of being an artist as well as helping them prepare for an art exhibition to showcase their skateboard designs.

"It’s not just a quick stop. We’re here for an extended amount of time; we’ve got a goal in mind with the art exhibition. It really puts it into perspective," he said. "It gives the kids such a purpose when they know the community’s going to see this, when they know they’re part of something bigger than just what they're trying to draw for a grade. They’re seeing it as a bigger project, as something they can really get behind."

Sorensen art director Jill McFarlane received a grant for $1,100 from the Idaho Commission on the Arts to fund the Artist-in-Residence program.

"The skateboard art is one aspect of the instruction that (Rivard) does, but another part of what he is teaching the kids is really more of an entrepreneurial mindset, taking their dreams, whatever those dreams are, and turning those dreams into a day job," McFarlane said. "He is showing them how his dream of becoming an artist became a reality through learning how to make money as an artist, so marketing himself, promoting himself, promoting his work. He’s using a lot of language about how to promote yourself, how to market this event, what is an exhibition, how do you show people what you’re about, how do you show people what you’re capable of and how do you get them to want to pay you for what you want to do."

Overall, McFarlane said, it’s about giving students the confidence to dream big.

"What I’m seeing happen already is an ability to tap into their own dreams, to tap into their own creativity, to see an opportunity and a way to express that, and have confidence in that expression of their uniqueness, their dreams and how they can pursue those dreams," she said. "Art is such an amazing way to reach into that and see that as something that’s valuable."

A public exhibition of the works created by the students will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. Friday in the Coeur d’Alene Public Library gallery. The show is open to the public. All are welcome to meet Rivard and the many young artists whose works will be on display. Light refreshments will be provided.

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