Frank Wagner Elementary students are using art to fund their creative habits.
The first — and likely not the last — Frank Wagner Art Walk was hosted in Monroe’s historic downtown corridor Friday evening. Almost every one of the students made a piece that was on display and for sale.
Principal Vikki “Momma Cat” Berard was strolling down the sidewalks that night, pausing at each of the 17 exhibits. She stepped up to Elizabeth Sanchez’s booth.
On the table in front of the fifth-grade Spanish dual-language teacher was a box of vibrant, laminated bookmarks. Off to her left was a table covered in colorful, funky strips, which are found to be tongue depressors after taking a closer look.
“We really wanted the students to take ownership of something they can use every day,” Sanchez said.
Their assigned participating business that evening was Main Street Books. A huge focus in her classroom is on reading. The bookmarks will help encourage and facilitate that activity, she said.
A larger piece at each site was up for auction that evening; they took more hands to make — the collaboration of an entire classroom, and in some cases two. Each could be purchased on the spot for $200, or a bid placed that would hopefully beat out other contenders by the time the contest closed.
All proceeds will go into reviving an art docent program at the school, Berard said. Frank Wagner is in the middle of a remodel. The school is anticipating the creation of a new room, the “the maker space.” It will be where the messiest, wildest projects can take place, she said.
Berard said it will be where her students can learn art skills, theory and history. Before any of that can happen, however, they will need supplies.
Fifth-grade teacher and Frank Wagner Wildcat Boosters member Missy Maxon was manning the table inside Monroe’s Wellbeing Center for Health on Friday night. Handmade gift cards were strewn across the surface, each with an ornate drawing of a tree. Different hues and designs flowed across the covers.
She picked up a couple of the cards and pointed to the sharp lines and attention to detail. Maxon said there are always crossovers from other subjects in art, such as math and problem solving.
Her kids were thrilled when they were told what they would be doing for the art walk. At their weekly meeting about 17 of Maxon’s 25 students said making art had been their favorite part of the week.
“They really enjoy tapping into that creative side,” she said.
Docents are highly prized volunteers at Frank Wagner, Maxon said. In years past more would come to the school, but recently their involvement has died down. Teachers are trained in all subjects. Having someone who has really developed their creative skills and can teach those to the children is an asset, she said.
Maxon said the projects can get expensive. Sometimes the supplies are paid for out of pocket by the teachers or their volunteers.
Student Lennon Locking said the art walk project was unlike anything he had ever done before. He said he enjoyed coloring in the different pieces. He and a friend worked together to complete one square of a larger segmented picture of a framed tree that became his class’s auction piece.
The two students took care of one of the three squares that had roots on them. Aside from wild colors inside the thin growths, they drew multicolored circles and spirals among the dirt.
Locking and his father, Travis, examined the few cards Locking drew. They purchased each one and put in a bid on the larger framed tree.
“That’s pretty neat,” Travis said.
Kindergarten teacher Andrea Vye came up with the idea for the art walk last winter. She said she had seen a similar program put on while living in Bellingham before she came to Monroe. She and Maxon paired up to pull it off within the first month of school this year.
For many of her students, the project was a crash course in basic skills like holding a pencil or using glue, which they hadn’t even learned yet. For their individual pieces, the group made figures out of real fall leaves. They pasted the dried foliage to paper and then laminated them. Each had a set of googly eyes to finish it off.
Vye said her auction project, a drawing of a tree trunk with a cascade of tie-dye coffee filters cut into the shape of leaves, was actually inspired by one of her docents last spring. She said it was also a chance to incorporate what the kids were learning about the changing seasons.
“Kids have a knack for the creative side of things, and a little bit the funky side,” she said with a laugh.
Vye said she worked closely with the Downtown Monroe Association for the art walk. The DMA helped get the 17 businesses on board that hosted each of the projects Friday.
Berard said art is a critical piece of the lesson plan at Frank Wagner because “we educate the whole child.” She said not every student is going to be good or interested in all subjects.
For some, art is it. By letting kids connect with that side of themselves it helps them thrive throughout the entire school experience, she said.
Photos by Kelly Sullivan: Missy Maxon and her student Lennon Locking and his dad, Travis, look over the handmade gift cards he drew for Frank Wagner Elementary’s first art walk held Friday. Sept. 29. Elizabeth Sanchez’s fifth-grade student and her family look over handmade bookmarks during. Andrea Vye talks to parents about her students' art walk projects.
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