WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Believe it or not, the Williams High School (WHS) art club, with more than a dozen high school students as members, actually began at Safeway. Well, the initial formation of the six-week-old club started at Safeway anyway.
As luck would have it, students Julio Belmontes and Noel Calderon happened to be in Safeway at the same time as substitute teacher Lisa Noble. Noble noticed the two young men beginning to follow her around the store, at which point the boys finally went up and explained their idea to her.
With her work not only as a substitute teacher, but with the Williams Art Gallery as well, Belmontes and Calderon knew she would be the ideal candidate to be the sponsor and supervisor of the art club they wanted to create.
The art club is the brainchild of 11th grader Belmontes, who Noble says is extremely organized, talented, responsible, and simply has a knack for getting kids involved.
"I'm real proud of him. He's there, he gets things organized, he hunts the kids down, and he knows what he wants and how to get kids involved. So I'm real happy to help them," said Noble. "My part of it is not just to be supervising but I will find competitions if they want them, I'm looking for scholarships if they want them, and just assist them in any way they need me to. And with my work with the gallery I'm hoping to get more feedback and open more doors for these guys."
According to Noble, the art club members are doing this because they love it but also to learn. The art club offers workshops to improve their skills and provides an opportunity for the students to simply be artists.
"It's a chance for these kids to express themselves because their art program's not as big as it used to be," Noble said.
The art club members are currently working on multiple murals within the high school building. One is located by the front of the auditorium and another is a "word mural" being painted on what used to be a bare wall in front of the stairs by the school's main office.
Noble said the club's big goal is to do the inside of the gymnasium and her desire is to do some 3-D effects by the cafeteria. Both projects are awaiting approval from WHS administration.
The art club is not a class; therefore it is not graded, but based on participation. Students who consistently show up, partake in activities and put forth effort will be rewarded with field trips as well as further honing and enhancing their skills. As Noble would put it, "you don't get to go have fun if you haven't been working for the club." She doesn't just want to teach art, but responsibility as well.
Belmontes said he originally thought up the art club because he wanted a club that could be more specific to his skills and his talents. The art class offered at WHS focuses more on jewelry and pottery, whereas Belmontes wanted a club that focused more on drawing and painting.
After the club was formed, Belmontes approached Principal Tristan Heisley to inquire about painting murals around the school. Not only did Heisley say it was possible, but he actually had some ideas and sketches of his own.
"This wall we decided to fill up with words that are encouraging and positive," said Belmontes, referring to the bare wall in front of the stairs by the office. "And then we decided we are going do a Viking up there in the upper left corner of the wall, later on once we are done with the words down here."
Belmontes said two more murals will be placed down the main hallway, south of the word mural, and these ones will be silhouettes.
"For those kids that aren't that academically strong but more artistic, I thought this would be a good way for them to possibly get more scholarship money and get their name out there as someone who does put forth the effort but might not have the highest of grades," Belmontes said.
According to Belmontes, northern Arizona has a state competition and anyone from the club is allowed and even encouraged to enter. Then if more than four entries are submitted, the district judges those entries to narrow down what will be entered into the state competition.
The art club currently has a small, but workable budget. Noble and Belmontes are always seeking help or donations in the form of paint, brushes, other supplies, or even tax money if possible. They also plan to hopefully someday hold fundraisers to aid in their efforts.
The art club meets to work on projects at various times of the day, either during a free period or after school. The club never interferes with other courses.
The Williams Art Gallery has agreed to display some of the students' artwork in March of 2013.