By Josh Tharp
With the stroke of a thin bristle brush, many can create a beautiful scenic forest, but to instill creativity in one’s students is an art unto itself. Dawn Zalkus has been teaching for 15 years, both at high school and college levels. This year she has been awarded the Illinois Art Educator of the Year for inspiring young minds to create and to give back to the community.
Zalkus has been very active in out-of-school school programs such as P.L.A.T.E, and Rock the Runway.
P.L.A.T.E. is an event where the art students create original pieces of art on plates, which are then auctioned off to those who go to the event. “It’s great because you can take home an original work of art, and that’s really special,” said Zalkus.
Rock the Runway is Batavia’s fashion show. Artist’s design ensembles which are then modeled by students. This year marks the show’s 10th anniversary. “I don’t want to say too much about it, but I think the show is going to be really special,” Zalkus said. She has plans to re-invite previous Rock the Runway alumni to come back and design outfits.
The community plays a very big impact on Zalkus’ extracurriculars. The patrons of Rock the Runway, and P.L.A.T.E. play a role in the funding for the programs, and the art classes here at BHS. “It’s good to have the support we have so that we can give back to the community,” Zalkus said.
Looking out into an endless starry night sky, one can get lost in the black of the night, with each star telling a different story, like how Zalkus inspires her students to tell about their own. She teaches various art classes here at the school, and all of them focus on the hands-on approach. Physical styles of art are her expertise. Techniques such as sketching, painting, and most definitely ceramics. She prefers the texture, smell, and general atmosphere that physical art provides that digital art just doesn’t give a good personal feedback to.
Zalkus believes that anyone can create and it’s important to give students an opportunity to express themselves through their own art. She always makes an attempt to give every kid, whether they are her own art students, or Batavia students as a whole this opportunity. This forms an artistic learning environment and a community that spreads creativity.