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BARNYARD ART

TALENT — As roosters ran in the dust at their feet and an old dog slept among the pumpkins, eight kids sat at a picnic table Wednesday, blank paper before them and oil pastels in hand.

The 6- to 8-year-olds were creating art on the farm.

"It's really hard drawing roosters," said Harold Neto-Akin, 6, as he watched a chicken dodge his sneakers at Rogue Valley Brambles farm. "It's really hard to make their feet."

Never mind drawing a rooster — many of the Ashland and Medford kids had never even seen the birds up close before this week's camp, said organizer Sharon Dvora, a Southern Oregon University assistant art professor.

"Now they are actually able to draw from life, from life on the farm," she said. "This is what en plein air art is all about."

Dvora, who also is the art education coordinator for the university's Schneider Museum of Art, is holding a series of art camps for kids this summer, through the Rogue Valley Farm to School program, which helps bring fresh food to cafeterias.

"It's great for the museum to take an artist's work out and exhibit it informally, to people who wouldn't normally see it, including kids," she said.

In July she held camps for children of farm workers at Suncrest farm in Talent and for those enrolled in a Kids Unlimited summer program at Dunbar Farms in Medford.

Ashland artist Betty La Duke, who is working on a series of paintings about each farm season, came to the Suncrest camp and donated examples of her art to the others. Her first series of 4-foot tall paintings, titled "Oregon Summer Harvest," depicts farm workers bent over beans, strawberries and flowers at Talent's Fry Family Farm.

La Duke said she hopes her paintings teach the kids about where their food comes from.

"I want them thinking about the origins of their food because they're so used to receiving it wrapped up in plastic at McDonalds," she said. "I think it's good for them to see the food on the farm and the hard work that goes into it."

Dvora's art camps end for the season this week, but the museum plans to hold a number of other community events.

She will make a book out of the children's farm artwork, which will be on display Sept. 10 at the Ashland Food Co-op's community classroom, 300 N. Pioneer St. The free event also will feature large giclée prints of La Duke's paintings, and she has invited the farmworkers depicted in them to attend.

"My paintings honor the farmworkers," she said. "The bending, the stooping, the squatting — it's difficult work and they do it every day."

At Rogue Valley Brambles this week, the young artists spent a few days acquainting themselves with farm life before depicting it on paper. They collected fresh eggs from the chickens and vegetables from the garden to make omelets. They gave 40 baby turkeys drinks of water and put them under a heat lamp. And they helped farmers feed the pigs.

Macy Haim, 7, said she planned to add a drawing of a chicken to her art piece Wednesday — but only a chicken of a certain size.

"I like everything about baby chicks and turkeys, but I don't like them when they grow up as much because they're not as cute," she said.

Meanwhile, having mastered drawing a rooster, Harold showed off his colorful farm scene.

"This is the farmhouse," he said, "and that's Bob, the dog. He was easy because he just lays there."

Reach reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-776-4459 or email hguzik@mailtribune.com.

From left, Maddie Fung, 12, Macy Haim, 7, and Abby Shuldberg, 7, prepare vegetables Wednesday during a Farm to School program at Rogue Valley Brambles near Talent. After working with the produce and farm animals, the kids turned into artists to depict what they had experienced. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore - Julia Moore