The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 17, 2013

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: PSU's Porter Hall memories = happy mom

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Globe Staff Writer

PITTSBURG, Kan. — For the past few years on occasional Thursday nights, the Art Department at Pittsburg State University has opened up Porter Hall to families who want to learn more about art.

I love Porter Hall. Sometimes I wander through it while on campus. Love the architecture. Love the galleries. Love the smell of creativity. It reminds me of my childhood, when I spent summer days there with my mom as she taught youth art camps. One year, we transformed an entire room into an ocean.

I wanted my sons to have those kinds of experiences, too, but it became difficult to attend Family Art Night with any regularity because weeknights tend to get eaten up by music lessons and City Commission meetings and homework.

So it was exciting to learn that they’re introducing a Family Art Morning, to be held for the first time on Saturday. Youngsters from kindergarten through seventh grade may tour the galleries and learn about the art exhibits, then do a project of their own to take home.

The session, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 10 a.m. and conclude at noon. Children ages 5-8 should be accompanied by an adult. The art that participants will create will be based on the theme “Places We Live.”

Parking is available on Cleveland Avenue, north and west of Porter Hall. For more information, people may contact Sunghee Choi, assistant professor of art, at 620-235-4310 or schoi@pittstate.edu, or Mercedes Brink, president of the University Art Association, at mbrink@gus.pittstate.edu.

While I’m on the subject of creativity, I wanted to relate a story from reader Deb Nichols, a Riverton teacher, who made my day when she wrote to me last week in response to my column about Lego blocks.

Nichols told me that she clipped my column and included it in Valentine’s Day cards she sent to both of her adult sons and one of their friends.

“I cannot tell you how many hours they spent raking through piles of Legos in the living room floor,” she wrote. “Sometimes, even at an older than ‘cool’ age, and well into the night. The boys and their friends would be eating snacks, listening to music, watching sports or movies, but at the same time there would also be a Lego construction project in the works!”

Nichols said her household “had a zillion” and still does — she’s keeping them safe, awaiting a grandchild or two.

She wanted to let me know that she credited Lego blocks, in part, for her 24-year-old son Alex’s great first job as a new PSU graduate a few years ago. Turns out he decided, after having not been a huge fan of school through the years, to give technology a try — perhaps based on his interest in the colorful building blocks for so many years.

(To be fair, she also gives partial credit to the “very cool” faculty of the university’s technology program for her son’s success.)

Alex, she told me proudly, is now an equipment engineer for Kiewit Offshore Services Ltd., on the Texas coast. As she put it, “Happy boy = Happy mom.” I know exactly what you mean, Deb. Thanks.

Follow Andra Stefanoni on Facebook at facebook.com/andrajournalist and on Twitter @AndraStefanoni.