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A painter shares his love of art with children a principal wins big on 'Jeopardy' game show


LAST WEEK, Charles Carroll Elementary art teacher Mary Mark Munday invited landscape artist John Hostalka to the school to conduct a watercolor workshop for her fifth-grade classes and got an enthusiastic student response and some very fine watercolor art.

Mr. Hostalka was born in Germany, but moved to the United States when he was 9. He studied for two years at the Atlanta College of Art before transferring to the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore.

After graduating from the institute, Mr. Hostalka received the Granger Marburg Traveling Scholarship. As an avid fan of German artist Carl Bodmer, Mr. Hostalka wanted to retrace the 18th-century painter's steps across the United States.

Bodmer, employed by German scientist Prince Maximilian, had trekked across America from the East Coast to Montana, drawing and painting botanical specimens, landscapes and Native Americans.

After winning the scholarship, Mr. Hostalka followed Bodmer's path last summer, using photography, sketches and watercolor paintings to document his journey.

At Charles Carroll, he shared a slide show of his trip, often putting Bodmer's pictures on the screen next to his own sketches, paintings or photographs.

"I tried to find the same things he had painted, and paint how they look today," Mr. Hostalka said. "I had to do a lot of quick sketches," he added, noting that six weeks of his journey was spent canoeing alone on the Missouri River. Mr. Hostalka found and replicated many of Bodmer's works, including Citadel Rock, Grand Natural Wall and many unique rock formations along the river.

The children seemed excited by the opportunity to meet the artist and to hear how far he had traveled in the name of art.

"It's pretty neat," student Amanda Pollard said. "Today I learned how to mix watercolors better."

"I think I'm doing better now," Britni Isaac said. "He showed us how to paint the whole thing with the lighter colors, then draw the darker colors over top."

Classroom volunteer Don Sharp said, "We let them go at their own speed. We try to guide them, then let them go. They are really quite talented."

Ms. Munday met Mr. Hostalka during the Young Peoples Studio, an intern program at the Maryland Institute, College of Art. Mr. Hostalka said this was his first workshop, but he hoped to do more.

"All I ever wanted to do was be an artist," Mr. Hostalka said. "I

was always a visual learner. Eventually, I'd like to teach art, maybe in college, although teaching younger kids is an equal challenge."

'Jeopardy' meets principal

Last week, local fans watched in awe as Westminster's own Barbara Walker squared off against other contestants on television's "Jeopardy."

Our local trivia whiz came home with $46,101, a landslide of parting gifts and the chance that she could be invited back to play in the $100,000 Tournament of Champions in the fall.

For Ms. Walker, principal at Runnymede Elementary School in Westminster, appearing on "Jeopardy" was something she always thought she might like to do. When she saw an advertisement for a contestant search to be held in Baltimore in the spring, she went. "I'd always been a fan of the show," she said.

At the tryout, she took a written quiz. After passing the 50-question quiz, she was invited to play a practice game and told her name would go on a contestant list.

"I didn't think any more about it," she said. "I guess I didn't really think they would call." But in August, the producers of the show did call, and in September, Ms. Walker and her mother were flying to California.

"A lot of people think they pay your way," Ms. Walker confided. "But they don't."

While in California, the pair spent a lot of time waiting with other contestants for Ms. Walker's name to be drawn out of a hat for a chance to play the returning champion. Ms. Walker was ready when her name was drawn.

"They tape five shows a day, so we would go out and play a game, get a 15-minute break and go in and play another game."

"Jeopardy" rules state that a player may not win more than five games. Ms. Walker won four. For her, the hardest part was returning home knowing how well she had done and not being able to tell a soul.

"They make us sign a contract saying we cannot reveal how we did on the show until after it has aired. If we do, we can lose our winnings," Ms. Walker said.

When asked what was the best part of her experience, the petite Ms. Walker joked, "I got to stand on a big box and look as tall as everyone else."

Then she added, "It was really the intense level of excitement and the friendships that were formed with other contestants."

Lois Szymanski's Central Carroll neighborhood column appears each Monday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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