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Artist spreads kindness with her brush

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image When Margit Redlawsk isn’t painting or teaching art to adults and students privately or at the Big Draw studio in Ruskin, people can find her in front of a classroom at Apollo Beach Elementary School. Penny Fletcher Photo

Margit Redlawsk was five years old when she first realized she wanted to be an artist.

By PENNY FLETCHER

Margit Redlawsk was five years old when she first realized she wanted to be an artist.

“I watched my aunt Uta, who was a commercial artist, and that’s what inspired me,” she said.

Margit, however, didn’t gravitate toward commercial art but instead, has always enjoyed painting with watercolors.

Her training is varied, majoring first at Kendall School of Design in Michigan and then earning her art education degree at the University of South Florida.

For 17 years she’s taught elementary school art in various Hillsborough County schools including six years at Summerfield Elementary and the last four at Apollo Beach.

“We are a character school, meaning we want to raise good citizens as well as teach,” she said when interviewed Sept. 13. So she works words like kindness, tolerance and respect into her art lessons whenever possible.

Recently she was involved in the annual school’s Pinwheels for Peace project where all her students made pinwheels using basic artistic shapes and balanced color as a classroom assignment.

But she says she used the annual Pinwheels for Peace event to teach the meaning of charitable words she uses in the classroom all year round.

Because she only gets the same students for 30 minutes once a week, she says it is difficult to complete a large project such as the pinwheels. She has been working at Apollo Beach Elementary three days a week and Stowers Elementary in Riverview one day a week but as of Sept. 26 she will begin working a five-day week at Apollo Beach.

“We feel so fortunate to have Margit as our art teacher here at Apollo Beach Elementary because not only does she connect her art classes to history, literature and math, but she also connects the students to the community and makes sure that student’s art is highlighted around the area at events and around the district so our students truly get a sense of what it would be like to be a true artist and have their work displayed and enjoyed,” said principal Jamie Gerding. “Art studies are important because they expose students to interests and talents they may not know they possess or enjoy. Art allows you to truly express yourself and students end up feeling positive and that transfers over to academic classrooms.”

Margit adds that when students connect to art they’re seeing patterns, making connections to books they’ve read and events they hear about in social studies.

“Research shows that arts enrich academic achievement,” she said.

But Margit doesn’t just teach her art to top students in elementary school. She also teaches regular classes at Ruskin’s Big Draw Studio on U.S. 41 and gives private lessons to both children and adults whenever possible.

Still, she finds time to paint on her own.

Her work is displayed annually by the Hillsborough Art Educators Association and has shown it at the Apollo Beach Manatee and Arts Festivals.

Now 48, she and her husband have lived in Apollo Beach for 10 years; her son is grown and married and she has one grandson.

She is also exploring mediums other than watercolors.

“I paint mostly in watercolors,” she said. “But now I’ve started to work in acrylics as well.” The difference between watercolors and acrylics is vast.

“When I paint with watercolors, the work is transparent,” she explained. “But with acrylics, you have to lay layer upon layer, starting from the back and working your way forward.”

She says she is enjoying exploring the new medium and encourages other artists to reach beyond what they have always done.

Some of her work, including two large paintings of big white orchids, is currently displayed at the South Shore Library and will be available for view through the month of October.

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