LES ‘Artist in Residence’ Embarks on a New Journey: the Intersection of Math and Art


Rumors of origami are swirling in the hallway as three third-grade girls wander into the Lyons Elementary School (LES) library. They wonder, who’s the visitor in the kimono. They just ate lunch but have some time before recess. The girls sit in the familiar padded oak chairs at the same table, listening to the hum of the library fish tank, watching sunlight slice through the windows. The visitor invites them to try origami, passing out square papers of neon green and bright orange. They begin to fold carefully, even unfolding at times, following the visitor’s pattern, keeping each triangle corner symmetrical. Suddenly folded ears emerge. A tail. A nose. Voila! An origami fox is born. 

In this November presentation hosted by Junko Goodwin, an educational liaison for the Japan America Society of Colorado, students used math as pattern to create origami. 

“We used geometry. If you think about it, everything relates back to math,” said Clive Besen, a fifth grader and self-described origami enthusiast.

The mathematics of origami is just one of eight workshops offered to students as part of LES’s annual program “The Artist in Residence,” – AIR for short— which is in its 20th year. This year’s theme represents a new journey—the intersection of math and art.     

While the program is called “Artist in Residence,” it’s more a series that showcases a particular kind of art using primarily Colorado-based talent. In previous years, LES hosted Grammy-winning dobro player Sally Van Meter, composer Jayme Stone, sculptor Alonzo Clements, and Colorado Book Award winner Todd Mitchell. This PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization) funded program does more than just spotlight a particular kind of art, however. According to Andrew Moore, the principal of LES, “The AIR program encourages empathy and self-expression, demonstrates a wide variety of career pathways, and embraces diversity in the arts.”   

This year’s program is particularly special because it’s being guided by the expertise of Elisabeth Stade, a professor in the Applied Computer Science Department at the University of Colorado’s Engineering School.  

Most recently students were wowed by Sally Gutierrez, presenting the rythms and motions of Flamenco. 3rd grade students got an upclose, hands on lesson so they could demonstrate during the whole school lesson.