Splashy colors and creative vision are what it’s all about these days at the St. Charles Parish East Regional Library – the Art Squad would have it no other way.
The recently established group combines a group of tweens and teens who meet at the library to develop their artistic skills, learn different art techniques, and get real instructions from professional comic artist Becca Hillburn.
Hillburn, a Hahnville High School alum, grew up hearing she should put aside her hopes of becoming a professional comic artist one day and perhaps pursue a more traditional line of work.
“People really didn’t get me,” said Hillburn, who has illustrated and published two graphic novels. “I’ve always kind of been a nerd. I fell in love with comics when I was 13 … a lot of people picked on me for wanting to go into this world, I think because I strayed from the pack.”
Hillburn wants the experience to be different for young, aspiring artists she encounters, and aims to inspire. The team was born in November of 2020, in part due to Hillburn’s desire to work with the children of her hometown community and teach the joys of artwork, along with the skills to go with it.
She taught classes online before things evolved, and it became a full-fledged squad with two instructors when the library paired Hillburn with Sarah Triche, library circulation assistant and a fellow artist.
“We paired both of them up and started doing this over Zoom,” said Lesley Campbell, youth services librarian.
It’s been a hit.
“It’s absolutely wonderful,” said Campbell. “We love working with Becca. Giving her this platform to be able to reach young artists seems like such a winning combination. And being able to set Becca up with Sarah and build such a good following before the summer, the ball’s really rolling on it now.”
It seems a natural fit for Hillburn, whose mother was a teacher at J.B. Martin for approximately 20 years.
During this summer, the meetings came off of Zoom and to the library itself, where the squad spaces out to be safe while sharing both their work and their ideas.
The group meets twice a month – traditionally the first and third Thursday of each month – usually with one meeting being a ‘hangout’ type of meet with discussion and critique of the group’s featured works, and the other geared around exercises, tips and instruction from Hillman and Triche.
“It’s really like two different art squads,” Campbell said. “The meetings are kind of themed. With the lessons, they get the materials and are able to take them home.”
To that end, the library’s been bringing in some different art supplies for the squad members to have access to, like a watercolor palette set, for example.
Following each meet up, Hillburn recaps what the squad accomplished on video via the library’s YouTube channel.
“She’ll show some of the kids’ art, and some of her own and kind of feature it all in a wrap-up,” Campbell said. “I think they’re all having a lot of fun with it.”
Campbell said there’s been a mix of young teenagers with children as young as 10 participating thus far.
A recent squad project was choosing a mascot, with several illustrations to choose from. Ultimately, a butterfly earned the nod and the group will decide next month how to feature its brand-new logo, which could be featured on stickers, buttons, tags and/or other library materials.
Art Squad’s next meeting is set for Sept. 2.