Connecting with Kids

Connecting with Kids

Elizabeth Early von Oehsen 14 IL understands firsthand the unbridled creative power waiting to be unlocked within a young mind. The illustrator has been savoring the last gasps of summer by teaching elementary-age students atBlue Door Studio, a small art organization in Cranston, RI founded by RISD alumnaClaudia Venditto MAT 95.

“The students are always nervous when they first arrive, but once settled in, they turn into complete chatterboxes,” von Oehsen explains affectionately while twirling a lock of her curly red hair. “I love interacting with artists at that age – they’re so expressive.”

von Oehsen says she has always been interested in mentoring – in part because art was a powerful source of therapy for her while growing up in Washington, DC. As an adolescent, she channeled pent-up frustrations into two-dimensional creative pursuits – which developed into truly arresting drawings. Her talent eventually earned her acceptance to RISD, her top-choice art and design school.

“There was no comparison – I always knew I wanted to go to RISD as opposed to a liberal arts college,” von Oehsen says. “So when I got in, I screamed at the top of my lungs.”

Even though she chose art school over a liberal arts college, von Oehsen appreciates RISD’s emphasis on the connection between liberal and studio arts. In fact, to round out her major in Illustration, she has been taking a slew of focused courses to complete a concentration in History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences (HPSS). Within the concentration, she has chosenThe Self in Society, an academic track that specifically focuses on the way people perceive, construct, manipulate and maintain views of themselves and the world around them.

Last fall von Oehsen tookSocial Psychology, a text-based seminar that delves into divergent theories of human interactions. Over Wintersession she signed up forFreaks, Queens, and Minstrels, a fascinating course that investigates true accounts of outcasts living on the fringe of society but who, instead of trying to deny their outsider status, revel in it. “These classes are rooted in the social sciences – which is incredibly useful to know about while attempting to forge personal connections with younger students like the ones I’ve been mentoring this summer,” she notes.

And though the major requirements in Illustration are incredibly demanding and require long hours in studio, von Oehsen says getting her HPSS coursework done hasn’t been problematic. “If I have reading to do, I always stay up until it’s done,” she explains. “I’m very diligent because the subject matter is so interesting to me. It doesn’t feel like homework.”

This fall von Oehsen is starting a year-long internship at Providence Country Day School, where she’ll work with students of all ages. And she couldn’t be more excited to continue taking what she’s learning in RISD’s studiosand liberal arts classrooms out into the world.

“Working in the art room is a natural, organic way to create trusting relationships,” von Oehsen says. “It’s really gratifying to be able to connect [with budding young artists] at that level.”

– Abigail Crocker

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