Art fosters creativity, community

Prospect Point families enjoy art night and brighten Valentine's Day for Wheatland Village residents.

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First-grader Carolyn Davis and her mom Jennifer piece together a tissue paper flower at Prospect Point Elementary's Family Art Night. The flowers and other valentines were delivered to Wheatland Village by students on Valentine's Day.

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Colorful self-portraits from the Picture Lady program line the back walls of the cafeteria.

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Dorothy Coffenberry enjoys the red, tissue-paper flower a student delivered to her lunch table. When students had finished passing out valentines, every resident in the dining hall had one at their place.

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Prospect Point kindergartner Peyton Helfer decorates cookies with Catherine Woodward at Wheatland Village.

The process of creating art and sharing it with others can build community and relationship in wonderful ways.

Students and parents at Prospect Point Elementary had an opportunity to experience and contribute to that process at an evening Family Art Night Feb. 10, a joint effort of the PTA, classroom teachers and Principal Chris Gardea.

In a school cafeteria transformed into an art gallery and workshop, the scene was one of color, bustling bodies and the kind of controlled chaos that ensues when fun and learning intersect.

The evening allowed students to showcase artwork created during optional, grade-level lunchtime art workshops this winter.

Also on display were self-portraits completed during the Carnegie Art Center's Picture Lady program, workshops that introduce students across the Valley to famous artists and art history.

Students and parents could also participate in a hands-on project, making valentines together to brighten the holiday for residents at Wheatland Village.

"We wanted to show the students that art can be for themselves, but that it can also be a gift to the community. Something they've created can go beyond themselves," said Susan Prudente, PTA program co-chair.

She and co-chair Donna Clark began the process last fall, soliciting the school community to bring in any art supplies and household items they could donate for creative reuse: buttons, thread, yarn, pasta, beans, sequins, glitter, paper, paints, glue.

The team set about planning appropriate art activities for each grade level, and invited students to come in during their lunch recess to participate in two-day workshops, assisted by parent volunteers.

"Student participation during lunch recess was voluntary, but all sessions were filled to capacity with excited students," Gardea noted.

When it came time to share the results, excitement and pride lit the faces of children as they led parents to view their artwork on display.

With refreshments and a performance by the Prospect Point choir, the evening had all the trappings of an art gallery opening.

A raffle held during the evening randomly selected one student from each grade level to accompany Gardea to Wheatland Village to make the Valentine's Day delivery.

Residents met the students in a community room, where they decorated cookies together.

Then, the students began the process of handing out valentines to residents gathered in the dining room for lunch.

There were many smiles and delighted chuckles as the children shared beautiful tissue-paper flowers and hearts festooned with glitter glue, stickers and heartfelt greetings.

Students then returned to school for a special pizza lunch with Gardea.

Other family fun nights this year include a math night held in January and a music night coming up in March.

"All of these activities take a great deal of planning and coordination to put together and we couldn't do it without the amazing and tireless efforts of the parent volunteers from our PTA," Gardea said.

"We have a true partnership with our families and the success of these kinds of events really showcases that and provides a great benefit to our students."

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