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Young artists combine history and art at Homestead drawing classes

October 2, 2018
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Nelson Dungan helps sixth grader Melany Brachman shade in her drawing during an art class at Homestead National Monument on Friday. Dungan, a former Beatrice High School art teacher, led the two-day drawing sessions in memory of the late Jerry Davison, whose memorial fund helped pay for the sessions.

When Shamryn Kreft saw an email from Nelson Dungan about a drawing class at Homestead National Monument of America, she knew then she wanted to go.

Kreft, a senior at Beatrice High School, had the retired art teacher Dungan as an instructor when he filled in for a semester.

“During that time, he was just a really great teacher and I just enjoyed him as a person and teacher,” she said.

Kreft and other students took part in a two-day drawing session hosted by Dungan at Homestead last Friday and Saturday as part of Art Classes on the Prairie, which includes a painting class later this month.

The classes are in honor of Jerry Davison, a former Homestead volunteer who died in 2016. Funds from Davison’s memorial helped pay for the sessions.

On Friday, elementary and middle school students spent time sketching subjects outside at Homestead’s Prairie Plaza. But chilly, damp weather meant much of the session had to be held inside at the education center.

In the afternoon, high school students got a chance to recreate Homestead-era paintings through their drawings.

“I just like art,” said Kreft, who sketched images from a painting called “Claim Locator,” on a pad of paper, which depicted a covered wagon and pair of Homesteaders. “That’s really my main thing; I want to do art when I grow up, so I’m trying to get as much experience as possible.”

Dungan, who led the session and helped students throughout the day, taught art at Beatrice High School for more than 36 years before retiring. He said he enjoys the opportunity to interact with students again.

“I miss the kids. I miss teaching and working with a large group of kids,” Dungan said. “This kind of gives me an opportunity to do something different in my retirement.”

The art sessions are free and supplies are provided. On Oct. 19-20, a painting class will be held, with a chance to paint outdoors, weather permitting.

On both days, a morning session will be held from 8:30-11:30 a.m. for elementary and middle school students, followed by an afternoon session from noon to 4 for high schoolers.

Fifth to 12th grade students can register for the painting class by calling 402-223-3514 or emailing Home_Education@nps.gov. The sessions are limited to 60 students.

Dungan hopes students will gain a better understanding of art through the free classes.

“I just hope they’re being exposed to a different variety of subjects from the perspective of the Homesteaders,” he said. “All the kids that signed up are interested in drawing and learning about drawing and painting.”

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