Langdon Elementary lands artist-in-residence

The Langdon Elementary School had a special visitor this week in the art classes of teacher Mindi Paulson.

Posted on 2/1/14

By Lee Coleman

Guillermo “Memo” Guardia, an artist-in-residence from the North Dakota Museum of Arts in Grand Forks, came to the school to teach students about clay and ceramics.

A native of Lima, Peru, Guardia came to the United States in 2002 and enrolled at the University of North Dakota where he received his Master’s degree in ceramics.

Hired by the museum in 2009, Guardia has been working with kids since.

“The director of the museum knew my work in ceramics,” Guardia recalled. “She enjoyed my work and thought I would be a good fit for the rural arts program the museum runs and she hired me as an artist-in-residence.”

Guardia said the biggest part of his job entails traveling around North Dakota and staying for a week in the small towns like Langdon and working with kids in ceramics.

“When the kids are working and you see their faces, they are discovering a new medium for them,” Guardia said. “In most cases when I go to small towns, the kids have never touched clay. When they do touch it for the first time, their eyes are wide open and it is like a magic feeling for them.”

Unlike many school art programs that have been slashed from budgets around the country, Langdon Elementary continues to carry the banner under the guidance of Paulson and with the support of the Northern Lights Arts Council.

“Art is one of the foundations for education and it is kind of sad and disappointing art is one of the first things they cut out of budgets,” Guardia said softly. “There should be more support for the arts in the whole state.”

With invitations from the Northern Lights Arts Council, this is Guardia’s second trip to Langdon.

Last year, he came and worked with senior citizens in the nursing homes.

“I worked with the residents in using clay,” he said. “It was a different experience but I learned a lot from them.

“It was more like a life experience. In the nursing homes, you are helping people in a different way.”

Guardia admitted to getting hooked on ceramics after taking an elective college class in Peru.

“It’s not painting a picture and it’s done in two hours,” he said with a laugh. “In ceramics, you have to be more patient with the kids because they haven’t tried it and don’t understand it.

“At the end of the week, when they can take their piece home, they are very proud of themselves.”

Paulson has been pleased with Guardia’s tutelage and the impact he is having on the kids.

“The kids really love clay,” she said. “Anything they can do to get their hands dirty and messy to make something is always a plus,” she said. “For them, it is fun to learn from somebody who isn’t from North Dakota. The tutorials Memo brings are great for them to experience something outside their little worlds.

“The culture he brings is way more than I know, Our school is lucky to have him in our program.”

The support of the arts isn’t lost with Paulson.

“It is great the North Dakota Council of the Arts sponsored something that can be brought out to those schools that aren’t as fortunate,” she explained. “We are lucky to have the Northern Lights Arts Council. They are instrumental in planting that love of arts in kids at a young age and continuing that love as the kids choose to follow it.”