Kids get their own art show at Graphite Arts Center

Kids and parents gathered at Graphite Art Center to draw and paint during Art Start Northwest’s first annual Student Art Exhibit.

Art Start Northwest held its first annual Student Art Show at Graphite Arts Center from April 18 to 20, featuring more than 100 student artworks from College Place, Chase Lake, Cedar Valley, Spruce and Lynndale elementary schools. Artists at Graphite also donated their artworks for the silent auction that helped fund Art Start Northwest’s School Outreach Art Program.

With 12 artworks auctioned, Art Start Northwest raised $2,400 – tripled the initial goal of $800. Seven teachers also won the auction’s door prizes, including three Costco-size boxes of Goldfish crackers, three electric pencil sharpeners and one gift certificate from Charcoal restaurant.

First grader Fernanda from Cedar Valley Elementary was the winner of the Student Choice Award.

The winner of the Student Choice Award was first grader Fernanda from Cedar Valley Elementary, who painted a picture of five evergreen trees with a rainbow in the background. “I’m smart, I’m beautiful, I’m kind and loved,” she said, when she received the award from Graphite’s education manager and artist Missy Hancock

The money raised will be reinvested into the School Outreach Art Program to purchase more art cabinets and supplies for other schools in the Edmonds School District. Hancock already made a list of schools that will receive donations.

Student artwork from Cedar Valley Elementary.
Student artwork from Chase Lake Elementary
Student artwork from College Place Elementary.

“I’ve ranked the schools based on who is offering reduced lunch and who is Title 1,” Hancock said. “The schools with the least amount of financial resources are put on the top of the list. We’re just moving down the list.”

Last October, Art Start Northwest held its first art classes at Graphite for elementary school teachers, instructing them how to teach art fundamentals to their students. In early November, the nonprofit donated an art cabinet and art supplies to each of the five elementary schools that participated in the student art exhibit.

Missy Hancock (left) and Mary Olsen hold up student artwork at Graphite Art Center.

Art Start Northwest founder and artist Mary Olsen said that the teachers had used the outreach program’s lesson plans and art supplies to teach their students. The student art exhibit is the result of their program.

“We had many parents who came in and say, ‘This is so great!’” Olsen said. “We’ll probably start visiting some schools that have art supplies and do teacher workshops and show them what to do.”

“I’d like to think this show is like cross-pollinating ideas, and teachers and students come down and see different projects from different schools and get ideas from what other schools are doing,” Hancock said. “It’s also a way to get people to spread the word about our program and get people excited about it.”

Students and parents examine various artwork from different elementary schools.

Next week, Olsen and Hancock will be planning the last teacher workshop of the school year, which will occur next month. This will close the academic cycle, and the program will repeat itself starting in the next academic year, Hancock said.

“Over the summer, Mary and I will work on making a bunch of lesson plans and sample projects for every month of the year,” she added. “And then we’ll give back to the schools at the beginning of the year. They have a project that they can hang up on the art cabinet door or in their teacher’s lounge so they can snap a photo, craft some items, see what it looks like. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for teachers – especially teachers who don’t do a lot of art.”

College Place Elementary dual-language kindergarten teacher Erika Rabura said that the art exhibit amplified students’ voices and capabilities with art. It was also a chance for kids to see each others’ art so they can feel proud about something they created. 

“It’s not (only) to provide a space for their creativity, but also bridges with what they’re learning in school and [makes them] feel seen in their community,” she said. 

Olsen said that art can be integrated into a variety of academic subjects, such as science and history. “If you’re studying entomology, have them draw [the insects] at the end,” she said. “If you’re doing history, see what comes to mind and draw it out. Integrate art into the curriculum. Otherwise, they think art doesn’t cross over.”

Graphite Art Centers educational manager Missy Hancock (right) speaks to Georgi Stoynov (left), Mariya Krusheva and their son Anthony.

Lynnwood residents Georgi Stoynov and Mariya Krusheva agreed that any form of art is an important part of children’s education and should not be removed from any school curriculum. Their son, fourth grader Anthony from Cedar Valley Elementary, had participated in the exhibit.

“I think it helps with creative thinking and helps them in life in the future,” Krusheva said, who is a graphic designer herself. “Because of art, kids think differently, and I think they have a better start in life than kids who don’t do art at all.”

Artwork by fourth grader Anthony Stoynov from Cedar Valley Elementary

Olsen began Art Start Northwest nearly 11 years ago because she was frustrated that there wasn’t much art programming in public schools. With the help of a handful of staff and volunteers from Graphite, Olsen and Hancock will be completing their first year of teachers’ art training that will affect about 2,200 students in five schools.

“Art is about communicating an idea or a thought,” Hancock said. “Sometimes you just create because it feels good. All the kids in the classroom could be making the same project, and those projects are going to look a little different. For kids who are struggling academically, art is a safe space for them, and that has disappeared from elementary schools across the board. In every district that I’ve taught, there’s not a visual arts program in the elementary schools. That’s what we’re trying to fix.”

“There will be more,” Olsen said. “This isn’t a one-shot deal. We’re just getting started.”

Follow Graphite Art Center for updates on Art Start Northwest programs on Facebook or Instagram.

— Story and photos by Nick Ng

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