TuHS's Jeannine Miller launches Student Visual Chronicle as way to connect students to community

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tualatin art teacher Jeannine Miller was recently recognized by the Tualatin City Council with the Community Enhancement Award for her hard work.Which images of Tualatin do you remember? What stands out? What do you see that takes you back to that place at that time with those people?

It’s questions like these that Tualatin High School art teacher Jeannine Miller has asked her students to consider in the last eight years. Through the Tualatin Student Visual Chronicle, she encourages students to recreate Tualatin sights and scenes using photographs, acrylic paints, colored pencils and graphic imagery. The city then purchases its favorite pieces and adds them to the permanent art collection. Since the program’s inception in 2007, 29 pieces have been chosen.

Earlier this month, Miller was recognized by the Tualatin City Council for her hard work with the Community Enhancement Award, which honors individuals or organizations who have impacted arts-related experiences for the local community.

Though Miller graduated from the University of Oregon with a fine arts degree in her 20s, she doesn’t believe she really became an artist until she was 40 years old. By then, she’d had her three children and finally had time to paint consistently. Now 57, Miller enjoys sharing the craft with her students and showing them all the possibilities of what they can create.

“I think (the Student Visual Chronicle) helps connect the kids to their community,” said Miller. “You find that the kids will go into a park and do an image. Or just their sidewalk. I’ve had kids do their backyard. It just kind of makes them think about why they’re here and what they’re doing, and how they are connected to Tualatin. I love that part.”

Often, through the Student Visual Chronicle and beyond, Miller finds the students surprise her with the art they dream up. While many of the high-schoolers she teaches come in with an artistic background of some kind, for others, a class like Drawing 1 might be the first time they’ve ever truly considered their own artistic abilities.

“You just have to get a feel for what the kids can do and always push them to do more,” Miller said. “Everyday you wake up, and you make decisions about the color of the clothes you’re going to wear...what color you’re going to paint your wall...what color car you’re going to buy. It’s all about using the elements of art. Line, color, shape, form, space — we’re thinking that

every day. The very first marks we make in life are a line. With a color pencil, a crayon, a pen. It’s all about using those tools.”

These are the lessons Miller teaches her students. She shows them they’ve been using art their entire lives, even if they haven’t realized it. And, it’s with these lessons that she helps them create pieces for the Student Visual Chronicle.

Miller acknowledges that the program is challenging and not for everyone, as it requires students to realistically recreate scenes. From this year alone, Miller had about 10 students start art for the program that they never finished. Even so, she thinks the pieces selected this year were some of the best yet.

“I think it takes a special kid and a lot of stick-to-it-ness to do these pieces,” Miller said. “It’s so fun to have them come in, see what they can do and try to get them to do more.”

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