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Basics’ teacher going above and beyond to teach kids art

Jerney Shores is one of the students at Basics that participates in the voluntary art class. Here she is hard at work on the pottery wheel.
Jerney Shores is one of the students at Basics that participates in the voluntary art class. Here she is hard at work on the pottery wheel.

When Karen King first started working at Basics & Beyond Alternative High School, she noticed one key thing was missing from the curriculum: art. King, who serves as the Centre for Arts & Artists resident art instructor and maintains a studio there, stepped up to the plate.

“I was hired here at Basics last year and students don’t have art,” King said. “So I suggested that I bring in some pottery wheels and they do art during their homeroom time, which is about 25 minutes long. On Friday, students can leave at noon and a lot of them choose to stay and create.”

The district stopped allotting funding for the Basics arts programs several years ago, King said. So King, along with the first lady of the Jasper County art scene and CAA executive director Linda Klepinger brainstormed.

The solution to King’s conundrum came from local generosity.  King received a Community Asset-Building monetary grant to purchase supplies and also received assistance from CAA and Jean and Murray Nelson Foundation.

“Its gotten bigger every year,” King said. “Last year it was just pottery. This year it’s pottery and (fused) glass.”

Her official job with the school is para-secretary/food service and while she gets paid, King puts in an enormous amount of volunteer time according to Klepinger.

“She’s over at the Centre — firing, glazing, cutting and moving things just to prepare them (the pottery),” Klepinger said. “There’s a lot of volunteer hours — she won’t tell you that of course.”

King personally considers pottery a “hobby” and does portrait drawings and abstract oil paintings in her spare time. She chose pottery as the medium for the students due to time constraints.

“Kids love the pottery wheel,” King said. “The way the wheel is, somebody can just get on with a little bit of instruction and they can make a bowl pretty quickly. For the time frame we had, it was appropriate.”

King’s words ran true as several kids worked on their latest projects late into the afternoon on Friday.

“I didn’t want to do this at first,” student Jasmine Marsh said as she was making a rattle. “(Doing pottery) it helps me get over my fear of being messy — I hate messes. I remember watching little kids while job shadowing and I freaked out because they didn’t have a single bottle of Germ-X.”

Another student hard at work on his rattle was Memo Catalan. Both Catalan and Marsh credited another student for first bringing them down to do art.

“It’s fun,” Catalan said. “I like doing it and it’s a good way to keep in shape,” he added jokingly.

Serena Capistrano was also hard at work and expressed gratitude for the non-traditional manner the class is set up in and the opportunity to do art.

“I like that it (art) express emotions more than words,” Capistrano said. “I am a pretty creative person and I like it better here than at the high school (NHS) because you’re not forced to do whatever it is they want you to create. You pretty much do whatever you feel like creating.”

The students’ work will be on display from 4 to 7 p.m. May 5 at CAA in a joint project with the PTA Reflections Program. This year, King estimates around 24 kids participated in the art class and they created 63 pieces.

“I love it,” King said of working with the kids. “I’ll do it as long they’ll keep me here.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at

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