Ms. Betsy, Founder
Hi! I'm Betsy Etchart, and like most of us, I wear many hats.
Here's a look at the top of my hat pile:
ColorWheels is so cool because in ColorWheels, I wear all the hats at once.
How did ColorWheels come to be?
ColorWheels originated in a panic response to my four-year-old's first show-and-tell.
As a professional writer, I'd kept my artist hat stuffed in my back pocket, neglected and largely forgotten since I'd earned a degree in art and art history from Mount Holyoke College a long, long time ago. But as a new preschool mom who didn't know I could pretty much reach under the sofa and pull out anything that would be great for preschool show-and-tell, I reached into that back pocket for the artist hat. I built a "robot" out of household recyclables. It almost made us late to school, but it was fun, my boys immediately wanted to make more, and when these homemade toys broke, I could fix them. Very empowering. And, did I mention, FUN?
Since then (2012), I've brought the Recycle Robot League to schools and festivals in the West Valley of Phoenix, where I help kids (and grown ups!) build their own (often kinetic) sculptures out of the recycle bin.
Snuggling into the artist hat, I said YES! when West Valley Arts Council and Estrella Mountain Community College offered me a position as Master Artist for Gallery 37 in 2015. Galley 37 is a national program that unites teenage artists with established artists to create public works of art. I worked with another Master Artist and mosaic expert Leslie Scott, helping her lead 20 high school students design and build "Chelonia," a large-scale mosaic for the new splashpad in Avondale's Friendship Park. SO FUN.
I led the program again in 2018, this time teaming with another local artist and teacher, Lichen Frank, to renovate a section of the Elsie McCarthy Sensory Garden for the City of Glendale, AZ, scheduled for installation in December 2018.
The Garden was a multi-sensory project, including tactile, motion, sound, and smell in addition to visual elements. FUN, FUN, FUN.
In between, I found myself teaching elementary art at a local charter school, which taught me that I love teaching young students how to use their hands (they're not just for swiping!) and how to see the world around them in a new way. (That is NOT an old yogurt cup. It is a ROBOT!)
From there I moved on to founding my own visual arts program, ColorWheels Mobile Art Room, which allows me to teach at a variety of local schools. I love to introduce students to tools and techniques, and then basically ride shotgun while they take the wheel of the artmobile.
In my classroom, students can't say, "I CAN'T." It's kind of the opposite of Yoda's philosophy, "Do or do not. There is no try." ColorWheels's philosophy is more like, "If you try not, there is no do." Bottom line: "I won't do it for you. You want your cereal box body to balance on your toilet paper roll legs? You learn to make a flange. Which is just a fancy-schmancy word for foot. All you need is scissors. Not even grown-up scissors. Little kid scissors.
Simple stuff like a flange is magic.
And when students do it themselves, and their robot stands up, what follows? PRIDE. CONFIDENCE. And the impetus to discover more.
Recycle robots are still a favorite ColorWheels activity each semester. (In the words of a third-grader: "I feel so creative when I'm sitting in front of a pile of trash!") But as you see from the Student Gallery, that's just one small part of what I do these days.
In addition to the ColorWheels after-school art program, I lead professional development classes for art teachers through the West Valley Arts Council, host the occasional art party for kiddos or adults, and provide private art classes. Because sharing art and art ideas is never old hat!
Here's the emergency velociraptor hat I whipped up for a friend's five-year-old son just in time for Halloween. Repurposed toy fire helmet, cardboard, tin foil, tape, Activa RidgedWrap plaster cloth, foam sheet, paint, and love.
What hat are YOU wearing today?