Community sings ode to Bolinas-Stinson School legend

06/07/2012

A walk around this week’s art show at Bolinas-Stinson School might leave you staring at a peculiar photo in the room. Perched on the side of a window overlooking a tall building sits a curly-haired woman dressed in a cape and tight shirt bearing a giant “S”; the caption reads “Harriet Kossman on the brink 2012.” Albeit a picture of Lucille Ball dressed as superman with Ms. Kossman’s head pasted over hers, it’s a fitting portrait of the art program founder and school legend, who, after 40 years, is perched on the brink of retirement.  

“It just seems time,” Ms. Kossman said. “I’ll still be around, I just won’t be teaching.” The art teacher realizes that she will be missed, as made evident last Friday when a retirement party was thrown in her honor. “It was like the Harriet love fest,” she said. “It was so much fun.”

A party was the least that the Bolinas community could do for a woman that started their award-winning art program over four decades ago. Not only was the program awarded with a Rockefeller grant of $10,000 in 1982, but it merited state awards in 1987, 1997 and again in 2010, making Bolinas-Stinson the only school to achieve this honor twice within that time period. “It just goes to show that the program we had in the 1980’s is the same as it is today,” Ms. Kossman said. “It hasn’t changed.”

There are four shops within the art program—art, clay, wood and metal. Ms. Kossman leads art. Her shop includes drawing, painting, fiber and textile art, puppetry, printmaking, collage, sewing, mask making, three-dimensional design through sculpture using different media, and art history. She also teaches students to use a sewing machine and sew by hand.  

“Do you like my clock?” a boy asked Ms. Kossman in the midst of Wednesday’s student art show. She gazed at his small metal figure, the face of which bore the hands of time as if it were a mustache; its arms held a long cane. The figure actually kept accurate time. “It’s my favorite one here. I don’t know how you figured that out,” Ms. Kossman said.

“Pretty good for a filmmaker.” The student was one of the many sixth graders that walked the show room, critiquing the paintings, sculptures, woodwork and metalwork of their classmates.

And Ms. Kossman doesn’t just teach her students about art. “Companies look for employees that can solve a problem just by looking at it,” she said. “That’s exactly what art is. That’s what we’re teaching.” She also aims to teach her students how to have fun. “You want them to enjoy learning now, so that they will always enjoy learning.”