Lessons in creativity, kindness

Maui artist teaches children compassion for animals through art classes

February 28, 2016

By CHELSEA DUNCAN - Special Sections Editor (cduncan@mauinews.com) , The Maui News

There are wild horses, smiling dolphins, busy bees and curious chimpanzees. Each animal comes to life in the paintings of children who've been taking Maui artist Barbara Steinberg's classes over the past several weeks, and each animal represents a lesson not only in art, but in kindness.

Steinberg has been sharing her expertise with children in Kihei for the past 10 years through her Animal Kindness Club Art Classes, where she seeks to spread her passion for animal welfare and students pledge to be kind to all creatures.

"The reason I combined . . . my love for art with animal kindness is that I feel children's art can change the world," she said. "It can be used to inspire us all through the purity of children's art to save endangered species."

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A few of the many animals painted by students in Barbara Steinberg’s Animal Kindness Club Art Classes over the past several weeks include a hammerhead shark by Daisy Queirolo, 11;

Her most recent 17-week, after-school keiki watercolor and drawing class wrapped up with a final art show last week at the Kenolio Recreation Complex's Bridge Room, attended by 60 family members and other guests. Each of her 22 students was awarded a certificate of excellence for his or her three best paintings. Children completed one animal painting per week of endangered species found in Hawaii, Africa and Asia.

The next class session begins this week and will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through June 22. Another final art show will reveal the latest colorful creations.

Parent Simona Patierno said her 9-year-old daughter, Christina P. Lam, has been taking classes with Steinberg for almost two years and has learned to draw increasingly detailed renderings of her subjects.

"She has added dimensions and 'pathos' as her comprehension for what she is representing has developed," Patierno said, adding that she appreciates how Steinberg's classes occasionally integrate classical music and audio-video presentations.

She said it's apparent the art teacher truly cares for animals, and her students. During class, Steinberg usually roams from student to student trying to help without imposing her style.

"Once she gets to know a student and his (or) her family, she will go out of her way to try to help that child to be successful," Patierno said.

Jihye Boyer's 9-year-old daughter, Rose, has been taking Steinberg's classes for two years. The mother and daughter were impressed with the artist's focus on her students and her love for painting wild animals, Hawaiian plants and sea life.

Boyer said the combination of animals and art allows for a full story to develop, of love and imagination. Her daughter's paintings always have a back story, she said, such as a cheetah licking her cub, nurturing and caring for her in the forest, or an Alaskan white wolf coming home to a cub greeting her in the den.

"Those stories truly touch my heart, create enjoyment for Rose and bring the whole process alive," she said, adding that her daughter has been inspired to become a marine biologist and loved learning about famed primatologist Jane Goodall while drawing gorillas.

Steinberg, who has also taught art classes in public and private schools for more than 25 years on Maui, as well as in her private studio, said she also teaches students to be good to their own pets.

"We teach that we all are guardians for dogs and cats and horses and pets, not owners," she said, "as to own a dog is like owning an object that is disposable. But we are guardians instead, and adopt a dog for its entire life."

Steinberg said she enjoys watching her students' talents and appreciation for animals blossom throughout her classes. Some students have taken her classes for four years, and many of her recent graduates will be continuing on with the next session.

"The paintings rendered by children in my class give us the feeling of being free in the glory and magnificence of the wild," she said. "We all need to become more acquainted with the creatures who share the Earth, from the chimpanzee, the polar bear, to the smallest squirrel."

To sign up for Steinberg's classes, which are part of the Department of Parks & Recreation's Community Class Program, and for a list of supplies needed, call 269-6845. The cost is $155 for all 17 weeks, and the class is open to children ages 5 to 12. For more information, visit www.barbarasteinbergart.com.

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