All three Beacon elementary art teachers are retiring

The annual Art is Elementary exhibit, which showcases work by Beacon public school students in preschool to fifth grade, will be the last curated by the district’s three elementary school art teachers.

Susan Wurtz (31 years), Cathy Pezzo (28 years) and Sallie Farkas (20 years) each plan to retire in June.

We invited them to chat on March 9 at the Howland Public Library during the opening of the exhibit, which continues through March 31.

Art teachers Sallie Farkas, Cathy Pezzo and Susan Wurtz will each retire this year.
Art teachers Sallie Farkas, Cathy Pezzo and Susan Wurtz will each retire this year. (Photos by Ross Corsair)

Is it safe to say that nearly every child loves art?

Wurtz: Starting in pre-K, the younger grades just go with the flow.

Pezzo: As they get older, sometimes they can feel insecure about art.

Farkas: In elementary school, I work on drawing skills because that gives them self-confidence as they go into middle school, where, yes, they can get embarrassed if they can’t draw something.

Wurtz: We focus on the elements of art: lines, shapes, color. The younger ones are always excited about art and it’s great to see. I love that part of it.

How do you reach less-enthusiastic artists?

Pezzo: Some older kids take to abstracts. If they have a hard time with the basics, that’s OK. You don’t want them to say, “I hate art.”

Wurtz: If you teach them how to break things down by shapes — the belly of a dog looks like an oval and this looks like a triangle — and to see things in a certain way, then they can and learn to draw anything.

What has changed the most over the years?

Farkas: Attention spans have gotten shorter, which is probably due to computers. You know: You can fix it with a button.

Wurtz: Definitely attention spans. Quality takes time.

Pezzo: One change is that sometimes I need a one-day lesson because by the next time I see them, they want something new.

Wurtz: In the older grades, it’s such an important skill to be able to focus on a project, do a rough draft, step back and make edits. We’re trying to impart the skills so they can get into that creative zone over a longer period of time.

A Few of the Artists

After kindergartener Madeleine Cooper spotted her drawing at the Howland Public Library, she ran over and jumped with joy.

Seren Donnelly, a first grader, hugged her father’s hip as she described her handiwork, which features buildings, pink clouds and a smiling sun.

“She’s happy, but shy,” said Brian Donnelly.

Fourth grader Stella McEvoy’s outfit evoked the colors and the pattern of her intricate close-up of an eye that belongs to a lightning dragon, a creature she created. Its red eyeball is split by what looks like a lightning bolt, which is what these beasts breathe instead of fire, she explained.

All the attention from family and onlookers made her “feel like a celebrity.”

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Marc Ferris is a freelance journalist based in Croton-on-Hudson.

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