Visiting Artist Teaches Fourth Grade Art Class

As part of their unit on murals, fourth graders learned about contemporary muralist Jen Stark before meeting her in person.
When Elementary School Art Specialist Anne Kessler was researching contemporary muralists for a unit inspired by Diego Rivera, she stumbled upon Jen Stark, a young artist based in Los Angeles. Anne immediately recognized Jen’s colorful, modern “drip” art as a perfect match for her fourth grade classes. She was also excited to show the students what the life of a working artist looks like. Jen studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art and has had major shows in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Thailand and Canada. Her work is in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the West Collection, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, NSU Art Museum and MOCA Miami, among others.

Jen, whose signature artwork resembles colorful paint splatters dripping down a wall, was equally excited to come to Crossroads. “I love working with kids,” Jen said. “They haven't been taught that they can't do things, so they dream a lot bigger.”

On Oct. 17, Jen facilitated a project for fourth graders, instructing them to cut out a wavy shape on one side of a piece of construction paper. When held vertically by the uncut edge, the shapes resembled  dripping paint. Once the shapes were cut, students began adding color with markers, and created a collage of cascading drips. They then combined their individual artworks together. “I love [the idea] that students are making their own [pieces], but also bringing it all together as one mural,” said Jen.

Fourth grade students responded with enthusiasm to Jen’s artwork, which they had studied before her visits.“I think her work is really beautiful and inspires me to do more art,” said fourth grader Nessie Macpherson. 

Parker Acosta was pleasantly surprised by the visit: “I'm not really an art person like that, but this is really fun. The colors are sharp, but the lines are smooth. That balances everything out.”

During a Q&A session after the lesson, Jen shared the details of her practice and the hard work that’s led to her success. She encouraged the fourth graders to pursue their hobbies and passions, wherever they may lead.  “As a practicing artist, I hope to give them the inspiration to shoot for whatever goals they want in life.”

The fourth graders’ mural will soon be on display on the Elementary School Campus.