It was almost serendipitous the day math teacher John Husome met 4th-grader Gus Van Kirk. After all, there were crayons involved. Husome recalled being on yard duty one day and telling some kids to clean up the smashed pieces of crayons they had left all over the grass.
“Here comes this kid out of nowhere, whom I had never met, and he offered to help. He said, ‘I want to keep my campus clean.’ That’s Gus’s character right there; he stepped up even though it had nothing to do with him.”
Husome, now the principal of North Woods Discovery School where Van Kirk has attended for the past four years, says that Gus is not only one of the nicest kids he has ever met, but also one of the most talented.
“Art is just one tiny facet of what this kid is capable of,” Husome says. An artist, athlete and academic, Gus excels at gymnastics, soccer, as well as science and math. And his science teacher, Nathan Fairchild, agrees wholeheartedly.
“While I respect his natural ability,” Fairchild says, “I think few people know how hard Gus works to reach his maximum achievement level. It is this effort that humbles me most.”
Gus himself seems somewhat taken aback when told how much people think of him. He kept thanking me for the information, as though he had nothing to do with it. On the contrary, he has everything to do with why people are talking.
One of the featured artists at this Saturday’s Art Hop, Van Kirk, now 13 and an 8th-grader, has been drawing since he began walking, and taught himself by “doodling.” His medium of choice is Sharpies and colored pencils, often drawing faces inspired by his imagination and his silly friends. He has an art room at home so he can continue his hobby; however, Gus’ free time is fewer and fewer, exemplified in the fact he was busily doing homework after school because he had the guitar lessons he takes with his dad that evening. But ask Van Kirk if it’s all too much and he laughs. “I like doing art. Maybe not as a full-time job, but definitely as a hobby.”
The art featured at Art Hop will showcase crazy, zany faces, as well as his love for nature.
“I think it’s very cool, all the stuff you can create on paper — how you express yourself without words,” he says. “It shows what kind of person you are.”
If Gus’ art is any reflection of him, from what I hear, it should have plenty of character.
Check out Gus Van Kirk’s art through October at Sweet Treats, 1556 Hartnell Ave. Meet Gus at a reception for the artist, this Saturday, October 10, from 6-9 p.m. during 2nd Saturday ArtHop.
Melissa Gulden earned her B.A. in journalism and her M.A. in English from CSU, Chico. She spent time in Las Vegas working as a college English instructor and a magazine writer and editor. Melissa currently teaches at University Preparatory School in Redding, performs in local theatre and writes for Enjoy Magazine.