J. Michelle Hill is a favorite visitor to the Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School in Northeast Washington because in her classes the students can get dirty.
For the past academic school year, Hill, a printmaker and textile designer, taught nine classes of children the intricacy and joy of creating silkscreened fabric in a classroom-cum-studio on the second floor of the school.
Two weeks ago the children showed off their creations: seven colorful banners and a loose-fitting, cotton poplin dress. The children presented the dress, colored various pastel shades of blue, green, salmon, pink, purple and brown, to Effi Barry, wife of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, at the school's general awards day ceremonies.
Hill, 28, was one of eight recipients of an artist-in-education grant, a 13-year-old program sponsored by the D.C. Commission on the Arts to introduce elementary and secondary students to a variety of graphic and creative arts.
The artists teach music, design, media, visual arts, dance, crafts or theater, and the host school provides them with studio space. The participating artists, who are paid approximately $6,000 for the nine-month school year, teach an average of 12 to 20 hours a week.
"Pulling the students into the art world so that it doesn't seem like it's something foreign and separate from them is I think the most important part of the program," said Hill. "To hear students say,'Oh I could be an artist.' This is important because they feel this is something that is not removed from their own ability," she added.
Hill provided her students with hands-on experience in textile surface printing with an emphasis on silkscreen printing. In silkscreen printing, a piece of silk or other fine cloth is stretched across a frame, a stenciled design is placed on top, and the design is transferred to the material by rolling a color-treated roller across the stencil.
"She's great!" said fifth grader Mariama Meyers, who often became spattered with paint while helping to create the banners and dress.
Hill, a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, has a master's degree in printmaking from Howard University.