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Artist's stay big hit with Indianola kids

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LORRIE CECIL/THISWEEKNEWS
Award-winning illustrator R. Gregory Christie helps Indianola Informal K-8 School students (from left) Joshua Richards-Jarvis, Mia Kain and Sasha Kushner with their landscape paintings May 6, during his residency at the school, 251 E. Weber Road.

A book illustrator got "a lot of love" during a visit with students at Indianola Informal K-8 last week.

Art teacher Jim McMahon and Kelly Chellis, a parent volunteer, both said R. Gregory Christie's three-day residency at the school was a big hit with students at all grade levels, especially the 20 or so who got to work directly with the award-winning illustrator from Decatur, Ga.

"The kids treat him like a rock star," Chellis said. "It's really great to see their enthusiasm for having a professional in the school.

"They high-five him in the hallway."

"I think they're enjoying it," said McMahon, who has been at the school for 27 years. "I think he's enjoying it, as well. He gets a lot of love here. When you're sharing your craft and sharing your skill, you have to put yourself out there. He did share with the students that he used to be quite shy when he was young."

Christie has been working as an illustrator for more than 20 years.

He has illustrated more than 50 books, as well as collaborated with clients such as The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Vibe, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Kennedy Center, Pete Seeger, Queen Latifah and Karyn Parsons on a variety of projects, according to his website. He also has a store, Gas-Art Gifts, in Decatur where he sells autographed children's books.

"We have used his books in the past, particularly Yesterday I Had the Blues," McMahon said. "I went to the library and got every other R. Gregory Christie book I could find. The kids fell in love with them."

Another teacher suggested the idea of getting Christie to serve a residency at the school, and the members of the Parent Teacher Organization agreed to provide the funding, according to McMahon.

"This is kind of something that we do, is get professional people into the building to share their experiences with the kids," he added.

"Our PTO always budgets money for the arts," Chellis said. "Here at Indianola we really find arts enrichment to be important. We try to bring in musicians, artists, at least every other year if not every year."

In addition to a "core group" of around two dozen students who got to work closely with Christie, McMahon and Chellis said the illustrator had sessions with children in every grade level.

A meet-the-artist event for school parents also was held on the school grounds May 6.

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