Artist, educator and filmmaker Nate Heck first cultivated a taste for visual art in third grade. Now an elementary school art teacher himself, Heck is on a mission to reach similar kids at an impressionable young age — perhaps, with an episode of his TV show about the Impressionists.
Heck's "Artrageous with Nate" (check out a clip at the bottom of this article) puts kids in touch with famous artists, their work and the science behind what they do. The pilot episode of "Artrageous with Nate," shot at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and currently airing on WFYI, focuses on George Seurat and the mechanics that inform pointillism.
"I was one of those kids who liked to take things apart," says Heck, "So I think that's why in these art videos I want to deconstruct how things work."
Heck's vision for his thirty-minute program is to help kids engage with art in a new way.
"I'm focusing on the artists and the science aspect," says Heck. "For example in the Jackson Pollock [episode] we're going to look at how viscosity effects paint. We have one for Van Gogh. It's called Van Gogh's sock drawer. What did he put in his coffee. What was he like on a daily basis? The kids get really excited when I make [the artists] more human."
But beyond than imparting historical and scientific information about art, each episode of "Artrageous with Nate" encourages kids to become active artists: "With every episode, I'm having them produce something. I sit down and think what [materials] they have quick access to that would be cheap. I really want them to make something without having to go to the art store and buy a bunch of stuff."
Heck and a few friends made the pointillism pilot on a shoe-string budget. It's currently in rotation on WFYI — "they're going to air anything we've got right now," says Heck — but his goal is to reach to syndication.
Meanwhile, Heck and his team are plugging away: creating more episodes, finding community partners and applying for a Pepsi Refresh grant.
With plenty of positive responses from the Indianapolis community, the Artrageous team has a bucket of ideas for future episodes: "Eventually I want to branch beyond art. I've got ones for cooking, music, all kinds of things. I want to stretch that vocabulary so [kids] understand that being creative can stretch beyond an art room or the arts."
With help from the Ball State School of Education, of which Heck is an alum, the Artrageous team is creating teaching resources that will accompany each video. Heck envisions the videos being used in classrooms and by home-schoolers as well as on PBS.
Heck has also established a collaborative effort with Art with A Heart, an area nonprofit that uses art as a therapeutic tool for less fortunate children.
"The Pepsi Grant, part of it will go to them," says Heck. "I'm going to give them 1000 copies for kids to take home. And they've teamed up with some art supply companies [that will] supply things like water color paint or whatever is needed for the project in the video."
Part of that deal entails that Heck will receive feedback from the students and educators who use the videos.
"The more kids that watch it, the better," says Heck. "I'm trying to refine things. It's a cool test to see how it works in their program, with their teachers."
In addition, money from a Pepsi Refresh grant would help Heck and his friends produce a handful of more videos: "We're still going to produce it, not WFYI. Our goal is to do four or five more videos. They money will pay for all the production costs, editing, the people I hire to film., etc. But we're also going to mass produce [the videos] and give them to teachers."
Heck has high hopes for the grant, viewing it as the stepping stone to the next level of his goal: "The Pepsi Grant is the catalyst to get the ball really rolling. We can't give our ideas to PBS without having a package to show."
Voting for the Pepsi Refresh Grant opened Nov. 1. You can connect with "Artrageous with Nate" on their Facebook page or at artrageouswithnate.com.
"We're trying to make it fun," says Heck. "Instead of just begging people to vote all November, I've got 30 video clips. I ride a unicycle and the kids are always coming up with challenges for me to do. So there are videos of me eating tacos and nachos while unicycling."
See: The opening 7 minutes to the pilot of 'Artrageous'