After-school art

Bothwell Middle School Art Club planning projects

This colorful sign, above, decorates the room where the Bothwell Middle School Art Club meets weekly. At right, seventh-grader Dakota Halquist sketches during Wednesday’s meeting of the art club as sixth-grader Maiya Dunham, below, paints. The hour-long sessions allow students to be creative at their own pace, plus plan future projects. (Journal photos by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Time spent on creativity, like creativity itself, doesn’t always lend itself to being rigid.

The weekly meetings of the Bothwell Middle School Art Club allow the students to be free-form in their artistic endeavors. It also gives them the opportunity to plan projects for the school and the community.

Teacher Gina Graci oversees the club, which meets from 3 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays in the art room.

“It’s just kind of like a safe spot for kids to come and be creative,” Graci said. “A lot of kids just need something.”

There’s not necessarily a set agenda either.

“They get to come here and just work in their sketchbooks, be with their friends,” Graci said. “I’m just here to monitor that.”

The friendly camaraderie helps, but students also can fine tune their artwork.

Seventh-grader Dakota Halquist took to drawing in her sketchbook right away after arriving.

She’s a regular visitor to the club sessions.

“This is just a really fun place,” Halquist said.

It also isn’t like what she called a “normal arts” class.

“Here you’re just pretty much, like, talking to the others students,” Halquist said. “Talking about whatever, actually.”

Graci led off Wednesday’s meeting with a short talk, specifically about a possible project that would extend the club’s artistic influence beyond the art room’s walls.

A “small, dedicated group” of art club students, Graci said, plans to give art lessons to little kids at the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum on a Saturday, possibly every month, to get involved in the community.

Graci said Feb. 10 likely is the date of the first museum session.

“We want to go there when it’s kind of busy, when there’s going to be a lot of kids there, so you’ll have the opportunity to work with people and teach them how to do stuff,” Graci said.

Monthly project themes also are a possibility, she said, with club members contributing ideas.

“So, if you are at all interested in helping out the community and helping out the youth, I suggest you come over and sit at this table today,” said Graci, referring to the core club group focused on the Children’s Museum project.

At that table was eighth-grader Marleigh Sherbinow, who spoke to the club.

“We’re going to make, like, dreamcatchers with the kids,” Sherbinow said.

She was dedicated to the effort in another way, telling the club members she would help with transportation if needed.

Part of the revamping of the art club, Graci noted, is repainting a mural on one wall of the building — which, obviously, can’t be accomplished during the coldest season of the year.

“Since it is winter, we need to start, like, game-planning,” Graci said. “What could we paint on the wall? It’s a huge wall.”

The theme, she said, will center on community, friendship and anti-bullying.

“You need to start thinking about things that you could design to promote that,” Graci said. “I’m not going to design it. You are.”

And helping with the design isn’t going to replace academic classes, she said in response to a student’s question.

The project also isn’t going to be completed overnight.

“The mural itself is going to take probably a couple years to paint because that is a huge surface to cover, so what I really want to do is start thinking about blocking it off into sections,” Graci said.

Discussion continued on the project, but for others, it was back to the drawing board — or sketchbook, as it were.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is