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Faculty Friday: Mrs. Catherine Swan

Catherine Swan

Art Teacher, Grades PreK through 8 

Education: B.A. in Art History, with Honors, Williams College; Studied at Silvermine Guild School of the Arts, Norwalk CT. 

How long have you been teaching at GCS?

I came to GCS in the Fall of 2006, so I’ve worked with many of our students throughout their entire careers at GCS and always enjoy watching them grow as artists.

How do you work with students at varying skill levels?

At every age and skill level, I challenge my students to learn about new techniques, but I also encourage them to use their own creativity within the framework of the lesson. There is no “wrong way” in art. Art class is a place where students learn that there many different ways to see, create and enjoy art. I find that even reluctant student artists are inspired by their peers and the projects in the studio.

What is your approach with our youngest students?

In the younger grades, it’s important to focus on developing gross and fine motor skills and personal expression. Even at a young age, children can appreciate different artists and start to recognize what artists they’re drawn to. In an upcoming project with the PreK classes, we will learn about Henri Matisse and his “wiggly shapes.” Students will have an opportunity to create pieces in his style, using his work as inspiration.

Are there art projects that the students look forward to each year?

Although I vary projects year-to-year, I also have some that have become traditions in my classroom. Learning about Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” completing a “Birch Trees in the Snow” watercolor project and creating masks based on various artists’ styles have become favorites. In the 8th Grade, students work in groups on a long-term project to “Make the Ordinary Extraordinary.” They research and prepare a project, learn how to mix colors, choose armature and create an original and larger-than-life piece of art. Many of the projects are displayed around the art studio and serve as inspiration to artists of every age at GCS.

What role does art have within the curriculum at GCS?

I work closely with teachers at each grade level to find ways that my lessons can complement what the students are learning in class. For example, in 6th Grade, students learn about Ancient Greece and Egypt in Social Studies and Religion, and I work with them on investigating and analyzing form and function of artwork during those time periods, which is a great way to put my Art History degree to work!

When you’re not at GCS, where can we find you?

I love spending time with my family, especially my grandchildren, Parker (4) and Avery (2), and our golden retriever and cat keep us busy, too. My husband and I are SCUBA-certified and love seeing how the underwater life changes based on location and water temperature. We’ve participated in a quarry dive in Pennsylvania and cold weather dives in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, but my favorite dives have been in the warm waters of the Caribbean. My nephew was recently stationed with the Navy in Guam, so we’re hoping to visit him - and maybe sneak in some dive time, too.

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