By Lisa Capobianco
From murals to handmade puzzles to holiday greeting banners and cards, students involved with the Kelley Elementary School Art Club have made a variety of projects since 2013, using their creativity for a good cause.
Consisting of about 45 students ranging from first to fifth grade, the club, called “Art for a Cause,” has donated the projects each month to local charities and organizations with the goal of inspiring happiness in those who need it.
“A lot of them are really creative,” said Clare Bean, who leads the club with fellow parent Kim Rees. “It is hard to give their art away, but they do it willingly.”
Art for a Cause recently created hand-crafted birds made from all materials, including sequins, buttons, lace, yarn and feathers. The project, called “Inspiration to Soar,” was designed not only to show the talents of the young artists, but also to inspire the community to make a difference. Throughout the month of May, an exhibit of the birds will be displayed in the windows in the café area of Southington Public Library. Members of the community will be free to purchase them online through The Isthmian Gallery, an organization that empowers youth by allowing their artwork to be a way to raise funds for charities they support.
Each member of the art club chose a specific charity for the proceeds to benefit. For fifth grader Devin Soper, choosing the YMCA’s Camp Sloper scholarship fund from the proceeds means giving her peers an opportunity to have a fun experience at Camp Sloper.
“It has helped me,” said Devin, who has attended Camp Sloper for the past two years. “It helps kids who can’t afford camp.”
Second grader Braden Barron said he selected the Ben Buckley Foundation to benefit the proceeds of his bird, since he played baseball with the 7-year-old who passed away earlier this year from a severe asthma attack. The Ben Buckley Foundation helps fund scholarships and other educational opportunities in memory of Ben.
“We both played baseball on the same league,” said Braden, adding that out of all the art projects he has created, he enjoyed making the birds the most.
Third grader Alyssa Polverari also chose a charity to benefit her peers. The proceeds of her project will support Angelman Syndrome Foundation, an organization that helps individuals with Angelman Syndrome and their families. Angelman Syndrome (AS) is a neurodegenerative disorder that mirrors symptoms and characteristics of autism and cerebral palsy, reported the foundation’s website.
“It is important for other kids to be happy,” said Alyssa, adding that working on the birds has been her favorite project too.
Formed in January 2013, “Art for a Cause” originated from an Asset Building Classroom (ABC) survey administered by the STEPS coalition. The results of the survey revealed a particular interest in an extracurricular art activity. Funded by donations from club members’ parents and a grant from the Joe and Kay Calvanese Foundation last fall, “Art for a Cause” chooses a different project each month. The club also received a portion of funding from a donation that Kelley School received from JoAnn Fabrics.
Run by parent volunteers who are a part of the ABC Club, “Art for a Cause” has combined students’ passion for art and community service, which serves as one of the 40 developmental assets that STEPS adopted, according to fifth grade teacher Josie Rogala of Kelley School. From creating placemats for residents at Mulberry Gardens to cards for the residents of The Summit Nursing Home to holiday greeting banners at the Bradley Campus of The Hospital of Central Connecticut, students have donated their projects to all individuals in Southington and other surrounding areas.
“Students have gained assets especially in the areas of service to others, positive peer influence, caring school climate, planning and decision making, just to name a few,” said Rogala. “These clubs give students choices that directly impact their personal interests and strengths, as well as create a positive relationship with our surrounding community organizations.”
Rees added that the club has not only helped guide students in their imagination, but has also “helped them form friendships and self-confidence” through teamwork. Through collaboration, the students created five large murals with oil pastels that will be displayed and auctioned off in June at the library. They have also created bonds with incoming kindergarteners, who received personalized tote bags from the club during orientation.
“I hope they learn the joy of doing art and the joy of learning how to reach out beyond themselves,” said Bean, adding that the club has also inspired parents, who devote their time helping out during the meetings.
“If they have an opportunity to reach out in a way that excites them, it will be more long-lasting,” added Rees, who has two children in the art club herself.
The “Inspiration to Soar” exhibit will be displayed from May 1 to May 30. Members of the community can make their bid on the Isthmian Gallery’s website. Bidders will also have the opportunity learn more about the young artist who made the birds for a particular charity organization in a binder that will be displayed in the library.