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Local artist Michele Steffen teaches students about watercolor technique Wednesday at Kennedy Elementary School in Willmar. The Spicer resident also used some examples of her own work -- both individual and mass produced -- to show students that artists' work is all around them. Steffen is at Kennedy as an artist in residence through a grant from the Willmar Area Arts Council. (Tribune photo by Gary Miller)

Artist in residence

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As Michele Steffen wraps up her watercolor technique classes today at Kennedy Elementary School in Willmar, she hopes the fifth-graders she's worked with will take away more than new painting skills.

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She wants them to know how big a role art plays in their lives.

"Behind many things, there's an artist," she said. "Sometimes it's closer to home than you think."

Steffen, an artist in residence Tuesday through today at Kennedy, demonstrated how to gently apply colors to a paper. But before that she showed the youngsters some of her work -- from one-of-a-kind objects, like a motorcycle helmet, to mass-produced items for which she did the initial drawings.

"Sometimes I might be working on a business card and sometimes I'm doing business signs," said Steffen, a freelance artist who lives in Spicer.

Although she had some important lessons to share with the students, Steffen said there were some light moments while she worked with the fifth-graders.

One student was staring at a piece of paper and not painting.

When Steffen asked why, the student explained it was due to an "artery block."

Steffen's time at Kennedy was funded through a grant from the Willmar Area Arts Council.

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Gary Miller

Born and attended public schools in Willmar, Minn. Served 20 years in U.S. Navy as a photojournalist. Worked at West Central Tribune since retiring from the Navy in 1994.

(320) 214-4344
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