Students see ‘history can be fun’ at [art]ifact exhibit

Fourth-grade students at Northside Elementary School had the chance to see “history can be fun” while participating in a tour of the [art]ifact exhibit on display at the Pump House Regional Arts Center until April 17.

Northside7 Shamar Strickland

Northside 4th-grader Shamar Strickland contemplates a sculpture that is part of the [art]ifact exhibit.

The project — [art]ifact: where history meets art — is a collaborative effort of the UW-La Crosse history and art departments, the La Crosse County Historical Society and the Pump House, with additional financial support from the Wisconsin Humanities Council and the Wisconsin Arts Board.

The project was conceived by students, faculty and community members led by UW-L’s Ariel Beaujot.

The La Crosse Public Education Foundation provided a $1,200 grant to support curriculum development aimed particularly for 4th-grade students.

Calli Niemi, a recent UW-L graduate who served as education coordinator, said the exhibit was a very new experience for many students — and different even for those who have previously been to history or art museums. “The art was totally new,” Niemi said. “So this kind of shows them history can be fun and actually applied instead of just in a textbook. It’s real. It’s around you — and so is art.”

Students from Northside talked about how they understood history to be “the past — what’s happened before” and that at some point, what’s happening now will be history. Art is “your imagination,” said one student. Another said we use art “to express our feelings.”