After a decade at the helm of the CMDS Art Department, Shelley Bolton is ready to paint.
“I’ve been teaching it for so long, and I’m always really jealous watching them sit there and do it. I’m finally doing it.”
Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, Mrs. Bolton will be the CMDS 6th grade art teacher. Meghean Warner, who has been the school’s Early Childhood art teacher for three years, will take over as department chair and teach SK through 5th grade.
Funky wigs and crazy costumes have been a hallmark of Mrs. Bolton’s career at CMDS. So has the impressive maturation of the art program.
It wasn’t that long ago when the idea of multiple art teachers would have been a pipedream. But Mrs. Bolton knew that even the youngest students could benefit from an earlier start. Art class used to start in SK, when Mrs. Bolton says she would “teach them how to hold Mr. Brushy and not put him in their mouth or their nose.”
Mrs. Warner’s arrival meant that CMDS students would get full-blown art lessons beginning at age 2. That’s made a big difference in the students’ skills development.
“They’re doing projects well beyond their years and doing a really good job,” Mrs. Bolton says. “Fifth grade just started a subtractive print technique that I didn’t do in college.”
Mrs. Bolton also credits Erin Harris, whose initial vision for the CMDS Art Department transformed it from “a program on a cart with crayons.” Harris was the CMDS art teacher for nine years. She is currently the founder and director of the Carpenter Art Garden in Binghampton.
The CMDS Art Department will soon have three teachers, as a search for Mrs. Warner’s replacement is underway.
An unexpected career path
Mrs. Bolton never thought she’d be a teacher. Her art degree led her to an early career in visual merchandising (think mannequin styling) at Goldsmith’s before she had children. Former CMDS Head of School Steve Jackson stopped her in the carpool line in 2006 – when her twins were 5th graders and her youngest was in 1st – and asked her to take the job.
Her twins are soon to be seniors at Ole Miss, and her youngest will be a senior at MUS. Now, she says, her life has finally slowed down. It’s the ideal time to pursue a career as a fine arts painter.
Mrs. Bolton was thrilled when Head of School Dr. Bryan Williams proposed she stay on as the 6th grade art teacher.
“I definitely want to be plugged into this school because it has been such a lifeline to my family,” she says. “It’s more than a job to me because I’ve loved the school for what it’s done for my kids, and then as a teacher.”
She’s also happy to continue being part of the CMDS biennial art fair, which she and Mrs. Warner are already planning for next year.
While she undoubtedly will miss all her students, Mrs. Bolton is also excited to invest more time and energy with the 6th graders.
“I’ll be the only teacher that’s just theirs, and I hope to be more than their art teacher.”