What We Think

Saugatuck Public Schools Visiting Artist Program

Just Visiting

To say the Saugatuck/Douglas area is “artsy” would be an understatement. Our welcome sign is a twelve-foot painter’s palette. The streets are lined with creative shops and a variety of galleries. And as expected, the local schools put a strong emphasis on the arts.

I was recently invited to participate in Douglas Elementary School’s Visiting Artist Program, pairing local artists with students from each grade. I’ve always looked forward to seeing which artist my boys would get to work with, and what they would create. But this year, with my third-grade son Frankie’s approval, it was my responsibility to make sure his project, and “artist”, were up to the local standard.

My Expectations

I’ve organized Cub Scout events; coached soccer, baseball, and basketball teams; and even worked as a camp counselor one summer. Armed with a well-planned schedule and a positive attitude, I knew I had this!

The Idea

Working with the Brittany Boverhof, Saugatuck Public School’s resident artist, art teacher, curator, and one of the schools many magic makers, we laid out a game plan and rough timeline. Over the next three weeks, our third graders would create Andy Warhol inspired pop art pieces that incorporated different facets of commercial art. In other words, cool soup cans.

Day 1

  • Introduce myself, the project, and let the students ask a few questions before setting them loose. (5 minutes)
  • Using a template with multiple blank soup can labels, each student will test out color combinations. (30 minutes)
  • Explain color separations and introduce the class to Pantone color matching guides. (5 minutes)
  • Select corresponding CMYK values with the help of Mrs. Boverhof and a couple amazing parent volunteers. (10 minutes)
  • Four students at a time will take headshots of each other. They will then import these photographs to a desktop computer, select the image they would like to use, edit it in Photoshop using prebuilt actions, and place it into their InDesign file. (10 minutes per group)
  • Day one goals: Each student’s photo and colors have been selected.


Day 2

  • Short font discussion followed by directions for their next tasks. (10 minutes)
  • Using templates of various fonts, each student will trace their first name in one font, and their last name in a second font. (40 minutes)
  • Four students at a time will work with me on the computer entering their CMYK values into their InDesign file. (10 minutes per group)
  • Day two goals: Each student’s names have been drawn and colors have been entered.


Day 3

  • Explain lighting, camera settings, and the importance of good photography. (5 minutes)
  • Hand out each student’s printed label and help them adhere it to their soup can. (10 minutes)
  • Photograph each can in a professionally lit mobile studio. (25 minutes)
  • Place these new can photographs into an InDesign file for a group poster. (10 minutes)
  • Finish with any questions they have about Art Direction, Photography, Graphic Design, etc. (10 minutes)
  • Day three goal: Survival.


A Few Takeaways

First, we have amazing kids. Funny. Creative. Energetic. Interested. Helpful… Loud.

Second, my lesson plan was laughable. Seriously, I could write an entire blog on the things that went wrong. I have no idea how our teachers do it.

Third, get involved. Get out of your comfort zone. This project, and many like it, wouldn’t be possible without parent volunteers like you. (Big “Thank you” to all of the parents who helped with this project!)

Last, I wonder how many people in our artsy community will consider this “art”? As one student said, “you’re using a camera, so it’s not really…”

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