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Pinson Valley offering ‘very’ unique art class

By Gary Lloyd

PINSON — Chris Screws wishes this class was available when he was in school.

The seventh-year art teacher at Pinson Valley High School says a “very” unique class is being offered this year, one that will allow students to learn about and design special effects, such as makeup for scary monsters, prop making, the molding for mask making,  and costume and set design.

The class will last the entire school year, meeting for 45 minutes each day. Screws said he’s “excited” about it.

Pinson Valley High School
photo courtesy of Jefferson County Schools

Screws is also the haunt director, mask and prop maker, and scenic designer for the Insanitarium Haunted Attraction, which is held each October at the Palmerdale Homesteads Community Center. The Insanitarium has generated interest in making special effects part of the art class for years, and now it’s going to happen.

There were 35 students on the class’ roster as of July 17, Screws said. Students will be required to do class work, but also on-site work at places like the Insanitarium.

“They’re going to be the driving force for the creative department,” said Screws, a former Clay-Chalkville Middle School teacher.

Haunted attractions are just a “small segment of the class,” Screws said. After the Insanitarium’s hours of operation are done in late October, the focus could shift to building a set for a nativity program. The class could help build something the community is in need of.

“It’s not going to be art for art’s sake,” Screws said. “It’s going to be art for a very particular purpose.”

Screws said he’s only found one school in the United States — in Ohio — offering a class that comes close to this one. There could be others, but he hasn’t found them.

“As far as I know, we are now the second of this kind of class in the United States,” he said.

Screws said part of the driving force for him to teach this class is his wish that it was available when he was growing up. But with Syfy television shows such as “Face Off,” a reality show in which a group of prosthetic makeup artists compete against each other to create prostheses such as those in science fiction and horror films, his students want it, too.

“It’s in the pop culture so they see it everywhere, and we’re just going to make it happen for them,” Screws said.

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