(Posted May 17, 2017)
By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer
James Keen, or “Jim” as he was known to friends and family, had a passion for art.
After retiring in the early 1990s, he spent much of his time studying different art forms, using his natural talent to apply the lessons he learned to glass and canvas, then sharing his knowledge with anyone willing to learn.
In the mid-2000s, Keen helped to found the London Visual Arts Guild, a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote art and art education in Madison County.
Under Keen’s guidance, the guild flourished and he watched as a plethora of classes and even summer camps sprang to life.
“He was so proud of all that they were able to accomplish,” said his wife, Ruth.
When Keen passed away late last year, his family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his memory to the London Visual Arts Guild so others could nurture their own creative passions.
Somewhat unexpectedly to the family, a lot of money was donated in his honor.
“It was quite a bit,” Ruth said.
With a large sum on hand from those donations, as well as donations from local civic groups, the guild’s board of directors brainstormed what to do with all of it. Eventually they decided to offer free summer art classes to children.
“He would have loved their decision,” Ruth said. “He loved kids and always wanted them to find their passion.”
While the guild offered free summer classes to middle-schoolers last year—due in part to another fund in the memory of a beloved teacher—and the guild offers yearly sponsorships, this will be the first time summer classes have been made free to all children, from primary to high school level.
“It’s a great thing for the community,” said Ned Neely, the guild’s education director.
Each age group will have their own focus. For instance, grades K-2 will have “All Experiences” where they learn drawing, cutting, pasting and printing in two and three dimensions. Grades 3-6 will have “Art Experiences” where they are exposed to elements of art and design. These one-hour classes will begin June 9 (at 10 a.m. for K-2; 11 a.m. for 3-6) and will be held Fridays only through July 28.
Summer art camp teacher Karla Knief explained that the Friday-only classes are for the benefit of child and teacher.
“Sometimes they don’t have the greatest attention span,” she said with a laugh.
Children in grades 3-6 seeking consecutive day sessions will be offered “Sketch Book Fun” where they learn techniques like color wheel, gestures, color lines, shading and cross hatching. Classes begin June 19 and go through June 23. Start time is 3 p.m.
For middle school and high school youths, “Preparing a Portfolio” will be offered June 12 at 3 p.m. Students will learn the purpose of a portfolio and its benefits. Knief said she is seeking guest speakers from a prestigious local art school to attend one of the classes.
Knief said she is excited to teach the classes this year and is equally as excited by the offerings.
“There is a wide variety of things going on this summer,” she said after mentioning that she has additional activities planned for the students other than what is in the course description. “It should be very fun.”
Ruth Keen said she has no doubt that children who sign up for the classes will have a good time. She said she hopes the guild will be able to offer free courses next year, as well.
Seats for the classes are limited. There is an initial charge of $10 for each participant to cover the cost of some supplies but that money will be refunded to students who complete the classes.
To sign up for a class or for more details, go to www.londonvisualartsguild.org. Applications can be filled out and submitted at Gallery on High, 5 E. High St., London. Classes will take place in Studio 7 next door. Interested parties can also contact Knief at (740) 837-0540.