Swindell inspires students to serve through artwork

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Mara Swindell


By Anna Goodwin McCarthy

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Inspiring her students to create art that helps others, Mara Swindell is fostering creativity and community service.

Swindell, a National Board Certified art teacher, is currently working with her students at Camden County High School on projects that will benefit the Food Bank of the Albemarle and Albemarle Hopeline.

“We can do this right here in the community to make the world a better place,” said Swindell. “I want them to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.”

Swindell said her students will be making pinch pots for Empty Bowls of the Albemarle benefiting the Food Bank of the Albemarle. Artisans and students at area schools will make bowls for the event that will begin with a preview party and silent auction on April 10 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and an Empty Bowls Luncheon the following day on April 11 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Museum of the Albemarle.

“They were actually pretty excited about it,” said Swindell, commenting on her students’ enthusiasm for the project.

Swindell said the bowl making process commences with a ball of clay. Students pinch the clay into the shape of bowls. A sgraffito technique is used to create designs on the bowls. Extra elements like clay flowers and leaves can also be added to the bowls. The bowls are dried in the classroom for several days. They are placed in a kiln, which Swindell describes as “like an oven” for an “all day process.” They cool off, and then students glaze the bowls and they are fired again.

Swindell said students are making at least three bowls. They are keeping one and donating two to the Empty Bowls event.

After finishing the project, Swindell said her students will start preparing artwork for Albemarle Hopeline’s second annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event which promotes sexual assault awareness. The shoe art created will be on display during the First Friday ArtWalk in Selig’s on Main Street on April 6, and all proceeds will benefit Albemarle Hopeline.

Swindell said she makes connections to math, reading and history in her art lessons.

Swindell advises the National Art Honor Society at Camden County High School, and she is a member of the National Art Education Association.

The art teacher said her love of the arts started at a young age.

“My mother (Lynn James) is very artistic,” said Swindell.

Swindell also fondly recalled her art classes in high school and was inspired by art teachers, John Lee and Elaina Lawson, to enter the profession.

Swindell graduated from East Carolina University where she studied arts education with a concentration in textiles.

Swindell also offers art instruction for adults and organizes create&celebrate events at local restaurants where people can have fun painting. Swindell models step-by-step painting instructions that participants can follow on their own canvases.

“We all have the same goal, but everybody’s turns out different,” said Swindell about the unique quality of participants’ artwork.

Swindell enjoys spending time with her husband, Michael, and their daughters Maleia and Mikala.