The metalwork classroom in the Art School basement is stocked with heavy machinery, vices, soldering guns, work lamps and steel tools—not your typical teenage hangout. But here is Michelle, 14, a freshman who’s enrolled in the Honolulu Museum of Art School’s new Tiger Tuesdays outreach program for students of McKinley High School, which is a 10-minute walk away. (Yes, the school’s sports teams are the Tigers).
“This is a pendant,” Michelle says, holding up an ornate piece of copper. “We had our choice in metal, and then we used the handsaw to cut around it. Then we went to the solder station to put on the loop; then we drew on it with Sharpie, and threw this in acid so it would rise.”
Sawing, soldering, and acid etching are just a few of the skills Michelle and her classmates have mastered in their first six weeks of the semester-long, after-school program. Many have learned to use tools like rasps and rotary grinders by making the most of each class session, often staying beyond the regular two-hour period.
“I love that the students want to show up early every day and basically beg to stay later,” says metalwork and jewelry instructor Ashley Potgeter. She has been with the Art School for two years and teaches adult and Young Artist classes. “The students all have their own unique flare. I show them techniques, and then give them freedom to take it where they want. For example, they’re doing prong setting now, and I have things that they can choose from, but in one class a student brought in these small dinosaur figurines and set them in earrings.”
This week, John, 16, is filing the edges of his maple leaf pendant. “After this we’re supposed to polish this to clean it up, and then add more details,” he explains. When it’s done, he thinks it will “fit perfectly with the fall season.”
Along with a varied background in commercial jewelry making and teaching,Potgeter (who also teaches English at Kaimuki High School) has experience working in special education. That experience will be essential when teaching jewelry making to her next group, which includes special needs students (aided by special care assistants). Over the course of the school year, the Tiger Tuesdays students come for two hours a week learning jewelry making or printmaking, and then switch in the following term.
This semester, printmaking instructor and .5ppi member Noah Matteucci is teaching a special needs group printmaking techniques to collectively produce a one-of-a-kind deck of playing cards.
“A lot of these kids don’t have anywhere to go after school, so we’ve sort of become that safe haven for them,” says Tiger Tuesdays program lead Sam Guerrero, who joined the Art School in July, bringing with him an accomplished printmaking and teaching background. “Other students can’t get into the art classes at McKinley,” he adds, “so this is a nice alternative if they are interested in art but can’t make those classes because of other obligations or the classes are full.”