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Volunteer Spotlight: Niki Dempsey

BY BARBARA M. TOBIAS –

One of the many services that volunteers give to Mena Art Gallery is children’s art education. Niki Dempsey has been teaching our children a love for art (and helping them have a great time while learning) for over six years now.

Niki’s background in art started with growing up watching her father, a professional artist. She went to art classes all through school and then worked as a professional artist herself in her early twenties.

She started children’s art classes at the gallery for children from 6 to 12 years of age. The popularity of the classes has grown exponentially and Niki realized that there were both younger and older children who wanted art classes, but the needs of the younger students and those of the older ones made it very difficult to find things that would be simple enough for the younger ones and challenging enough for the older ones. Fortunately, a couple of her assistants were willing to take on the young students, leaving Niki able to concentrate on the needs of the older ones.

These teenaged artists have been working for months building paper-mâché dragons. They started by forming the “skeleton” with pipe cleaners and went on to add paper, both construction paper and more traditional paper-mâché materials and techniques. They only have one class per month for two hours, so the process has been slow, but the young people are having a great time and are determined to finish. They are now to the point of beginning to paint their creations, and they look ready to fly and spout fire any day now.

They also take the time to look around the gallery at the work being displayed by older artists and have decided their next project will be twining, a combination of weaving and a sort of macrame. Members of the Fiber Arts group have created small rugs with this technique.

Our heartfelt thanks to Niki for helping to encourage the next generation of artists here in Mena.

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