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In its 28th year, the Childrens Art Institute of Gresham teaches kids and adults to celebrate their right brain

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: LISA K. ANDERSON - Kate and Carla Piluso have participated in the Childrens Art Institute since Kate was in first grade in 1999 and the programming expanded for adults. Their home is decorated with projects they've created the past 14 years.

In 1999, Carla Piluso enrolled her first-grade daughter in the Children’s Art Institute.

It was the first year the program added adult classes, and Piluso, the former Gresham police chief was quickly hooked.

Fourteen years later, Carla and Kate Piluso (now an incoming college junior at Willamette University) still participate in the art institute together, forming summer plans around the two-week program in July.

“It’s one of the best kept secrets in Gresham for the summer,” Piluso said. “I used to use my vacation time to do this. It was a true escape and therapy.”

In its 28th year in East County, The Children’s Art Institute offers half-day visual art classes for children first through 12th grade and adults each summer.

The program was founded in 1986 by Annie Painter and is directed by Marlene Bergan, a Damascus Middle School art teacher, with assistance from Linda Frazier, a special education teacher with Damascus Middle.

Today, the program draws 113 participants — 95 kids and 18 adults from all over East County, Vancouver and the Mount Hood area. This year’s theme is Pacific Northwest Art, and the program is housed at Hogan Cedars Elementary School.

During a time in which state budget cuts have forced schools to cut back their art programs, the institute directors, teachers and participants say extra curricular art opportunities are crucial.

“I love that people come back year after year,” said Peggy Dills Kelter, an instructor who commutes from Hood River. “We’re like old friends returning for a reunion.

“The art institute has such a foundation of really thinking about teaching art in a deep way — fun and crafty but also thoughtful.”

While Kelter teaches the first week of adult classes with assistance from her sister, Jean Dill, Kathy Allegri teaches watercolor the second week.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: LISA K. ANDERSON - Gresham watercolor artist and guest instructor Dean Crouser demonstrates how to paint a trout to elementary-aged students.

On Tuesday, July 9, adult and kid participants were treated to a class taught by Gresham watercolor artist Dean Crouser, whose work is marked by animal imagery and brilliant splashes of color.

“I learned anything you make can look nice,” said Connor Hartley, 8, a third-grade East Gresham Grade School student. “You don’t have to be scared if you make a mistake.”

Added Tess Hansen, 8, a fourth-grader at Firwood Elementary School in Sandy, “You don’t have to be so neat.”

After 14 years, the Pilusos' home is decorated in a variety of their creations from the Children’s Art Institute.

“It offers the freedom to create,” Piluso said. “The freedom to not be judged on your creation — everybody’s creation is art.”

An art display and celebration will be held 6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 18, at the end of the program, at Hogan Cedars Elementary School, with a raffle fundraiser for the program.

The Institute is selling $1 raffle tickets for $150 worth of watercolor prints, coasters, cards and a large tile donated by local guest artist, Dean Crouser.

The raffle will help support the summer art and scholarship programs. For more information, visit thechildrensartinstitute.org.

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