Originally Published: January 8, 2012 10:18 p.m.
"Wow," is what early admirers might have said about young Pablo Picasso's artistic prowess when he was a child.
But, it's a sure thing that people who see the works of young students in the STEPS Children's Art Show at 'Tis Art Center and Gallery will have the same reaction. Picasso, historians say, showed his talent in his early years, and so it is with budding artists, such as Tanya Tuttle, 9, a fourth-grader at Lincoln Elementary School.
Tanya has always drawn and done crafts on her own, without direction, her father Tom Tuttle, said, but the STEPS classes set her on a different creative path.
"She learned to have a starting point and now when she uses her paints, she can focus," he said. "She has a wonderful talent," he added, giving credit to her teachers and mentors at 'Tis for his daughter's progress.
"She's getting an understanding of symmetry, and she's gone from cute 'little kid' drawings" to pieces that "are raising eyebrows" and prompting adults to say, "Wow," Tom said. "These classes have helped nurture that."
Working with watercolor was her favorite among the art classes, said Tanya, who explained that she sketches her subjects first and then paints. She enjoys drawing dogs and goes outside to paint "what I see" for her landscapes.
"I learned a lot of stuff about shading," Tanya said. Fifteen of her pieces, along with the artworks of the other students in the class, will be on display for the show, which runs through Jan. 30 at 'Tis, 105 S. Cortez St., Prescott.
Andrea Smith, 'Tis curator, was the inspiration for STEPS: After School Art Education Program, designed to provide Prescott-area children with free art education classes to enhance academic development, cultural awareness and sensitivity to the world around them.
She taught pencil, colored pencil and pen and ink to the nine children who participated in the program. Because schools have cut back on creative programs, her interest is in stressing the importance of the arts, she said. "They (the arts) make a person a kinder person," she said, "and if they are a creative person, it gives them an outlet to express themselves."
Her role in critiquing, she said, was to show her students, as they gave free rein to their creativity, "their positives," but, at the same time, "show them what's not working and why so that their pieces can be more pleasing to the public."
The children who took part in the series of classes came from all backgrounds, Smith said, and they learned, step by step, every part of the art world, from creating a piece to putting a price tag on it.
Katy Standhardt introduced the youngsters to watercolor.
"It's always, always a positive experience for young people when they play with art - creativity should be play," she said. "We are all born artists.
"Through this 'Tis program, we hope to continue that childhood enthusiasm for creativity," she said. "Young people can lose their enthusiasm as they grow older - as they begin to be self-critical or listen to other criticism."
Through STEPS, "We are stimulating children's creativity and keeping their natural momentum going," Standhardt said.
Jessica Buckles was looking for art lessons for her two sons, Grant and Quinn Routson, 11 and 9 years old, respectively, after the family moved to Prescott from Idaho this past August. The boys attend Mountain Oak Charter School.
She appreciated that their teachers "offered them a lot of freedom of expression. An apple could be blue, and they appreciated that," she said.
Grant said he "learned a lot about shading and abstract. You think about what the teacher did say but also think about what she didn't say. If she says, 'Draw an apple,' you can draw an apple with a bite out of it. I learned that your own work doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be yours."
The Yavapai County Community Foundation and the 'Tis Foundation provided funding for the STEPS program. For more information about future programs, call the gallery at 775-0223.