Helen M. Knight Elementary student Kendrick Tangreen paints the landscape at Buck's Canyon viewpoint in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. [Courtesy photo / Bruce Hucko]

It’s an art project that hits close to home.

Third and fourth grade students from Helen M. Knight Elementary (HMK) will display their work in an exhibit called “Where We Live” at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center from Jan. 10 to Feb. 28.

The exhibit is an expression of the children’s experience painting outdoors while visiting the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park.

An open house will be held Saturday, Jan. 18. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. selected third and fourth grade students will teach lessons. The formal opening will be from 4 to 6 p.m.with most of the young artists in attendance.

“This is the kick-off for the fiftieth anniversary of Canyonlands National Park for celebrations throughout the year,” said Joette Langianese, the director of the Friends of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. “The park service doesn’t have the resources to put on a birthday party, so we’re doing that for them.”

The children’s art show is one of several activities the Friends of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are planning. It all leads up to a birthday party on Sept. 12 – fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson created the national park – to be held in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

“There will be guest speakers and a cowboy dinner,” Langianese said. “It will be a lot of fun. Great opportunity for the community to celebrate the national parks in our own back yard.”

During a survey it was found that no more than 30 percent of any HMK classroom had been to Canyonlands National Park; even though 70 percent or more of each classroom’s students families were involved directly or indirectly with national parks due to working in tourism.

Bruce Hucko, known by the students as Art Coach, said that Canyonlands National Park has always been his favorite national park.

“When I learned that most HMK students had not visited Canyonlands it was only logical and appropriate that we get our children into the landscape they live in,” Hucko said.

Field trips were scheduled for two classes at a time. These children were then separated into three groups for instruction with art teachers Sarah Hamingson, Shannon Scherer and Hucko.

Hamingson, who is also the 2013 National Park community artist, taught pastels to one group. Scherer taught watercolors to the second and Hucko taught acrylic to the third.

The project also provides students with a “real-life, on-site” visual art experience that serves as a culminating lesson for series of lessons of art, science and social studies that have been taught in the classroom, Hucko said.

Third and fourth grade teachers also assisted by integrating their lessons in science, social studies and language arts with the art curriculum.

Each student was to complete a single plein-air painting of Canyonlands National Park that includes three landforms. Then they were quizzed on the names and descriptions of basic landforms. The final project was to write short personal essays about their experience.

“The exhibit of over 200 paintings is the result of a wonderful community collaboration,” Hucko said.

“As this project was outside the standard school budget we needed to find funding assistance.”

The project was funded by the Utah PTA, Friends of Arches and Canyonlands/Bates Wilson Legacy Fund, Grand County Education Foundation, WabiSabi Make a Difference Grant Program, the HMK Arts Committee and Back of Beyond Books/Desert West Office Supply.

“I think the community will be well pleased with the children’s work,” Hucko said. “This is a great opportunity to celebrate our children and the landscape we all live in.”

Langianese said that this is a wonderful way to start the nearly year-long celebration.

“It’s a great exhibit,” Langianese said. “I hope the community will come and admire their works of art.”

Schoolchildren illustrate Canyonlands National Park

When: 4 to 6 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 18

Where: Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North

“When I learned that most HMK students had not visited Canyonlands it was only logical and appropriate that we get our children into the landscape they live in.”