Teaching 6-year-olds brings out the best in artist’s work

Art is the driving force behind the curriculum at Wren Avenue Elementary School of the Arts, where Eric Vandetta teaches first grade.

“The value of art in school is often overlooked,” explains Vandetta. “Many think of it as just a hobby, but art not only enhances how we learn about other subjects like math, science and history, it also helps us retain what we learn. Art also helps us listen to other points of view and see things in different ways, which cultivates community building.”

As a visual artist, Vandetta enjoys all things digital. “I shoot photos of everyday things and recompose them into something more abstract,” he says.


Teaching 6-year-olds brings out the best in artist’s work
“Curious Guests” is one of Eric Vandetta’s digital works.

He tried for years to be a realistic painter, but being colorblind combined with a slight tremor in his hands made it difficult. “Then a friend showed me a free photo editing program on the computer, and I was hooked,” he recalls. “I started manipulating any photo I could find. Eventually I graduated to Photoshop, which helps me maintain color accuracy and allows me to further explore my fascination with lines and patterns.”

What Vandetta loves most about abstract art is the viewers’ journey. “You’re not looking at something that’s already there in reality. Instead you’re going inside the artist’s mind,” he says. “Kids love abstract art because they can see what nobody else sees.”

His creative process shifts around a bit. “Sometimes I see exactly the abstraction I want as soon as I snap the picture. Other times I have no idea what’s happening on the screen, which can be frustrating. But I let myself meander and something always develops.”

It’s part of what he’s learned about making art with the kids. “You don’t always have to know what you’re doing from the start,” he notes. “You can roll with your mistakes and figure out ways to make things better.”

In his almost 30 years teaching in Concord, Vandetta has taught all ages up to sixth grade. “I like first grade because I can be there at the beginning to help kids build important foundational skills like critical thinking and problem solving. We spend lots of time observing, listening and discussing.”

Vandetta’s job also involves reaching out to the local arts community, including the Concord Art Association and Fro Schmidt, owner of aRt Cottage.

“Fro asked to see my portfolio, which was a first for me,” he says. “She said ‘I think you’re on to something good.’ That was the biggest confidence booster. I showed my work there this summer and even sold a piece.”

He finds the local arts community incredibly supportive. “Everyone is so collaborative. I hope my students will grow to become part of it. Concord is a big city that deserves a thriving arts scene.”

Visit vandetta-art.com to see more of his work.

Lisa Fulmer is a marketing consultant, published author and a community arts advocate.