Everything that happens in Mr. K’s art class is fun. And everyone who comes to one is either engrossed in learning a new technique, or giggling helplessly at someone funny the teacher said, or drew, or did. It’s that kind of class.
Held after school in the Park District of Forest Park administrative building on Harrison, After School Art inspires intensely interested kids who seemed disappointed when class time had to end, and reluctant to leave, stop drawing, and stop talking about the ideas popping into their heads.
“Mr. K” is Dan Kwarcinski, a solid, bearded, affable man of 33, with degrees and expertise in fine arts and web design. Before St. Bernardine’s school closed, two years ago, he taught art there, too. During week two of After School Art, he was teaching children ranging from 7-12 about one-point perspective, a deceptively simple project that started with a rectangle and a dot on a sheet of paper. Then the magic began: through brainstorming and experimentation these simple elements blossomed into a mad variety of drawings. Given the basic theme “a Christmas tree in a living room”, the children managed to crack each other up while mastering perspective, adding wild accessories to each living room as they chatted together.
Kwarcinski, who lives in Hoffman Estates with his wife (described by him as highly supportive), six-year-old daughter and beta fish, has a bachelor of fine arts degree from Northern Illinois University, and studied web design at Harper College. In addition to teaching at the park district, Kwarcinski, who worked in Naperville as a senior web designer, has his own web design service, Dan K Art Services ( http://dankayart.com/index.asp). He takes numerous fine art commissions as well.
But teaching is one of his greatest passions. And he’s good at it: he has everyone’s attention – and they have his – from the moment the kids enter the room. It’s clearly something all of them look forward to. On Mondays, he teaches afterschool crafts to toddlers. Today, it’s the elementary kids. The talk is nonstop, and Kwarcinski is always in the mix – walking around the table, noticing what each child has chosen to do in the assignment.
“You’re pretty talented,” he says to one. “You’re drawing way above your age level.” When one boy makes a pirate “arrrrr!” Kwarcinski suggests, “Why don’t you draw a pirate, too?” Each new idea seems to spur the children on to add things to their drawings. The chat ranges from Spongebob to outer space, and often picks up on elements in the emerging pictures. One small boy has, with an air of great satisfaction, drawn a huge sign labeled “EMERGENCY EXIT” in the center of his otherwise Christmasy room. When an older girls asks why, Kwarcinski answers, in a pompous, shocked voice, “Why, for EMERGENCY PURPOSES, of course.”
Toward the end of the class, students notice a new addition to Kwarcinski’s own drawing, quickly sketched out as he worked alongside the kids. He’s drawn an upside down staircase attached to the ceiling, Escher style. The image amuses the children, created in perfect seriousness and with great precision – as well as with a straight face.
Kids treat Kwarcinski as one of their own: a fully-accepted peer, albeit bearded, who happens to have the answers they seek, who gets their silliest jokes, and who cracks them up with his own. The back-and-forth continues until everyone is shocked to realize it’s after 5 p.m. and time to go home.