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Acclaimed artist helps students create with their ‘crazy ideas’


Faith Jager plans a piece with her group

Jovannah Nicholson, a local artist and ice sculptor on the 2011 Food Network show “Ice Brigade,” recently gave Nickels Intermediate students a lesson in transforming clay into dragons, flamingos, starfish and other creations.

Nicholson, a West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology instructor, served as a visiting artist in Molly Marshall’s art room, creating mugs on the classroom potter’s wheel for students to embellish with their own ceramic designs. The mugs will be auctioned off for the West Middle School Arts a la Mode event and given away as gifts.

“I love working with my hands,” said Nicholson, who created all the bowls for the Heartside Community Dinner ArtPrize Juried Grand Prize winner by Seitu Jones. “It’s fun to see their skills develop and their crazy ideas. There’s a lot more truth to what they make,” she said of working with children rather than adults. “It’s a little more raw.”

Students embellished the clay pieces with their own designs

Students said they liked molding the clay into shapes and designs.

“She gives us ideas and says it doesn’t have to be perfect,” said sixth-grader Emma Maas, who worked on a ceramic flamingo with classmate Bree Contreras to add to their mug.

Marshall said she invites visiting artists to her classroom to give students a sense of what’s possible in art, from creating with different mediums to careers. Nicholson’s visit was funded through the Byron Center Fine Arts Foundation.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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