Fritsch Elementary's artist in residence Trish Tryon said art should be taught as a form of personal expression and not as a structured technique.
"Before you teach about technique at this age, they need to learn how to play," said Tryon, who received her bachelor's degree in fine arts at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village. "They need to see that it's fun. There are no rules how they have to do it."
Tryon, a massage therapist in South Lake Tahoe, is part of a program funded by an $800 grant through the Nevada Arts Council to integrate art into the school's curriculum.
Gina Wasley, mother and member of the Parent-Teacher Association, organized the effort between NAC and Fritsch because art is often the first thing to get cut from the budget.
"Our PTA is committed to giving our kids as many enriching experiences as possible," said PTA member Gina Wasley. "It added to our existing art program that is run by volunteers."
Students at Fritsch Elementary will spend this week in sessions with Tryon to learn automatic painting.
"Automatic painting is when you don't have a plan," Tryon said. "You just let the process happen. You're more into the process of the painting instead of being concerned with the outcome."
She said she chose the technique so the children would be able to overcome self doubt and discover a new freedom.
"People are so afraid of messing up that it stops the creative process," Tryon said. "So many things in life we hold ourselves back from because we're afraid of messing up."
Seven-year-old Danya Delallana painted an apple tree with birds and flowers.
"It's fun because we get to paint anything and use all different colors," she said.
Pam Rhodes, second-grade team teacher with Karen McPhail, said the project was a success.
"I just love it," Rhodes said. "It's so fun to see the children not feel inhibited and have the time and the space to do it."
Once the students paint the Masonite boards, which Home Depot cut free of charge, they will come back for a second session where they glue objects to the painting.
"They take it a step further," Tryon said. "They learn about balance and how to organize things."
She said regardless of the finished project, the most important thing is that children learn to use their imaginations.
"Anybody can make something look like something else if they practice hard enough," Tryon said. "Not everyone can use their imaginations and just let it pour out."
Wasley said Tryon filled her expectations for the program.
"Everybody that walks into this room has something positive to say," Wasley said. "I know that they've walked away with an enriching experience and that's what I was after."