Menifee Students Develop Their Skills in Summer Art Institute

Reilly Paulson works on a color drawing in his class during the Summer Youth Art Institute. Re...

Reilly Paulson works on a color drawing in his class during the Summer Youth Art Institute.
Reilly Paulson, age 7, carefully added some background color to his sketch of an ancient Egyptian figure, copied from a drawing posted on the blackboard in the front of the class.

"I really like art," he said, barely pausing to look up from his artwork. "My favorite thing to draw is a Komodo Dragon."

Has he ever seen one of the gigantic Indonesian lizards, which can reach lengths of 10 feet?

"No, but I've read books about it," he said.

Reilly and more than 200 other local elementary school students have the chance to combine art skills with their academic knowledge and curiosity this week in the Summer Youth Art Institute, sponsored by Arts Council Menifee at Quail Valley Elementary School.

ACM created this program with a pilot program that included 40 students last year. This year, with a $10,000 grant from the Community Development Block Grant program, the group is presenting the free week-long series of classes to 400 students. Next week, 200 more students will take part in a similar program at Romoland Elementary School.

Students take part in 90-minute classes, separated by age, and develop their skills in painting and freehand drawing. According to Judy Hyneman, coordinator of the program for ACM, the classes provide opportunities many students no longer receive during the school year because of budget cuts affecting the arts.

"District offices now look at test scores and focus on things like reading and math," Hyneman said. "Those are important, but it's sad that the arts is not being offered. A lot of kids learn through art."

Francisca Ayala, age 9 (left), worked meticulously on a pencil sketch of a vase and flowers. She said her favorite subjects to draw are dogs, birds and a hoot owl.

"They gave us a paper about this class in school," she said. "I gave it to my mom and told her I wanted to come."

Funding for the program is based on certification of a percentage of students as coming from low or middle income families, but no student is turned away, Hyneman said. Art instruction is provided by teachers from the host school. ACM fronts the cost of the program and is reimbursed through the grant program.

"The kids just run in here, they're so excited," said Bill Zimmerman, vice president of ACM. "We're finding some tremendous young artists in this group."

Crystal Lopez, 10, spent her time duplicating a sketch of a guitar in her cla