Carbondale Arts’ Rosybelle mobile makerspace is rolling

It doesn't take much to elicit excitement from Crystal River Elementary School's after-school art students. All Kat Rich had to say were two lines:

"I'm the project director for the Rosybelle bus," said Rich, who oversees Carbondale Arts' school-bus-turned-makerspace. The 12 third- and fourth-grade students cheered. "And we're very excited because you're the very first class on the bus." At that, the kids erupted.

The Tuesday visit to the Carbondale school introduced the bus to its target audience: Garfield County students. Rosybelle will return to Crystal River each Tuesday through May 16, and the bus' summer schedule is filling quickly.

"We think we've hit on a real need and real excitement," Carbondale Arts Executive Director Amy Kimberly said earlier in the year, after the organization announced the bus' successful funding. "We're being approached by a lot of groups and schools."

CRES art teacher Susan Annabel walked with the students to the bus Tuesday, eager to see this extension of arts education. The school's classes visit her for one hour a week, which is common in the school district. The after-school program has a waiting list for Rosybelle.

"They're at such an age where they're so creative," Annabel said. The bus' colorful environment will also help them see they can take art outside of the traditional classroom.

The students' enthusiasm again bubbled over as they boarded the bus and met art teacher Eliza Rogan. In addition to student education, the bus will offer opportunities for artist residencies and collaborations with community organizations.

"This is so cool — we get to sit here and do art," one child exclaimed.

The day's assignment: Create a gray scale chart that shows a range from white to black, and then use each of those color values in still-life drawings. Rogan said the students' lessons will focus on this and other principles of design.

"It's the same things any age would be learning about," she said. "You just sort of shuffle how you learn about each of those concepts to a certain age group."

As the students set to work, Rogan, Rich and Rosybelle intern Savannah Miller-Otto offered additional guidance. Miller-Otto paused at a student's drawing of a wooden block, which showed how light affects the appearance of color.

Miller-Otto, a junior at Glenwood Springs High School, will spend the next year helping with Rosybelle grant research, classes and summer camps.

It's part of her capstone project, and Miller-Otto said she hopes it will help her narrow future career options. It's also an opportunity to do something she believes in: spreading art throughout the community.

Miller-Otto's work is also an homage of sorts to the late Ro Mead, Rosybelle's namesake. Mead, a past director of Carbondale Arts, was best friends with Miller-Otto's grandmother.

"We were really close. She was someone I really looked up to and admired," she said.

Before the end of class, Rogan asked the students to bring a photograph to draw from next week. Again, the kids were quick to celebrate the next step in their education.

"I love this bus," one said.

"It's amazing."

"It's awesome."

"It's the Magic School Bus."

Carbondale Arts staff expect Rosybelle to spread that magic to children throughout the county.