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Art in the Tiger Den


The Muddy Creek Artists Guild has been meeting at the Davidsonville Family Recreation Center for about a year in a building we share with Cub Scout Pack 454.  Scoutmaster Dan Schiavo saw a fortuitous opportunity when the scouts (called “Tigers”) decided to undertake their art badge.


The badge requirements were fairly straightforward:

1) Visit an art gallery or a museum, explore an art website, or visit your library.

2) Look closely at pictures of some art with your den or a family member. Decide what you like about the art, and share your ideas with the other Tigers.

3) Create a piece of art on paper, poster board, or canvas.

4) draw or create an art piece using shapes.

5) Use tangrams to create shapes. 


Scoutmaster Schiavo needed help with items 2-5 so a call went out for volunteers from the Muddy Creek artists to assist the scouts with their art-themed Stories in Shapes. Up stepped Jan Willem van der Vossen, mixed media artist and once-upon-a-time cub scout. With three daughters who have followed him into the arts and a granddaughter who was recently accepted into the GW Carver Center for Arts and Technology (a big congrats to her!), Jan Willem had good cred for the task.



Jan Willem met with the Tigers at DFRC for two evenings in March. Ten children ages 6 to 8 participated. Jan Willem set about explaining how art is made up of shapes, lines and color, demonstrating on a large piece of a paper at his easel. Drawing on his experience as a father and grandfather (and heeding the advice of the Scoutmaster), he avoided getting too deep in lecture or theory lest the kiddos’ attention waned. Jan Willem obviously nailed the delivery because the Tigers were rapt. As he concluded this intro, he stressed that making art is not about making something that other people (like your parents or teachers) think is pretty. Art is an expression of your ideas and emotions. In fact, it could be loads of fun to make something that might NOT be considered pretty or used “ugly” colors. Jan Willem encouraged them to paint what and how they wanted, adding, “YOU are in charge!”


Jan Willem provided each Tiger with an 18” x 24” piece of paper and six colors of acrylic paint.  To their delight, the kids were then allowed to select a brush from his personal collection for the evening.  Jan Willem steered them toward the bigger brushes in an effort to encourage the kids to let go and be free with their expression.


The Tigers embraced the assignment with gusto, aided in no small measure by dressing the part with berets and smocks provided by Scoutmaster Schiavo. (Oh my gosh, too cute!)


Between his first and second visits, Jan Willem made posterboard mats from the pieces the Tigers had made the first night. The kids said the treatment made the pieces “pop,” which Jan Willem told them was like “putting a suit and tie” on their work.



More fun commenced for the second evening. Scoutmaster Schiavo reported that the Tigers were the most engaged he has seen them during any activity this year. In fact, he thinks they would have happily spent all night painting had they been allowed. Parents had to drag them away (figuratively speaking, of course) at the end of the evening.  There are quite a few naturally gifted artists in the Tiger Den, according to the Scoutmaster, who also made a point to express his appreciation to Jan Willem and the Guild for supporting the scouts. From all accounts, the experience was a huge success and enjoyed by all—including Jan Willem! In fact, he has volunteered again for next year.


Jan Willem and the Tiger Den

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