The future just got a little brighter and more colorful for students at Frankford and Philip C. Showell elementary schools, thanks to a helping hand from the members of the SouthEastern Delaware Artist Studio Tour (SEDAST). Each year, the tour hosts a highly anticipated event, wherein the public is invited to the galleries and studios of some of the area’s most renowned artists. Money is raised through the “Art in the Hat” raffle during the studio tour and then makes its way back into the community.
Last week, Amy Kaufman and Justin Cavagnaro, members of SEDAST, presented a check for $1,130 to Frankford Elementary art teacher Marci Stake and her program. With roughly 540 students enrolled at the elementary school, all of whom – kindergarten through fifth grade – are taking art, the annual $1,000 budget is sometimes a difficult one to deal with.
“That’s not a lot of money,” said Cavagnaro. “It’s not an easy task to run an art program with less than $2 per kid.”
The oversized check brought a smile to Stake’s face, as well as to the faces of her students.
“This will really help fund supplies for the art room,” noted Stake.
Throughout the year, students venture into a wide range of art media. The stockpile of clay, yarn, crayons, markers and paints will all increase with the donation, as will the tools in the computer lab, where Stake balances her time with the kids. Additional mouse pads, earphones and software programs will also be picked up with the contribution made to the school.
The students rotate their schedule between art class and working with computers, spending four days focused on one, then four days on the other. Despite being a first-year teacher at Frankford Elementary, Stake has wasted no time incorporating the two.
“We use Smartboards in the classroom,” she said. “We can search for reproductions of art, and it really helps with the lessons. This school district is all about technology.”
The students decorated and submitted entries in Google’s recent contest “Doodle for Google,” in which schools nationwide had the chance to design the logo for the search engine. Stake has even gone global with her students’ work, implementing an online gallery through Artsonia.com.
“I’m trying to teach them to use the computer as a tool for learning,” she said.
And it’s not only the computer classes she’s merging with her art lessons. She involves ideas from other classes, incorporating studies in math, science and even economics into art class.
“The kids have had an auction for their work,” she said, “where they were able to trade and sell their work and understand aspects of marketing.”
Art lessons have focused around recycling, the solar system and even history lessons, including topics such as Native Americans culture.
“I’ve been working with other teachers and involving other courses,” said Stake. “I love doing that for the kids. It really helps them understand.”
This year, students’ art has been featured in two shows, at the Rehoboth Art League and the Art Institute and Gallery in Salisbury, Md.
“It’s wonderful to get them involved,” said Stake. “We try to do a lot of contests.”
Above all, though, she said she hopes that the donation will help bring about an after-school program, which award-winning Frankford Elementary has been trying to make a reality in recent years.
“We’ve been pushing for an after-school program, but our grant did not come in,” explained Frankford principal Duncan Smith. “We plan to start with it next year. We want to increase what we can offer to the students, and we feel we can do a lot more with such a program, not only academically, but with more activities for the kids, like art, music and P.E.”
Since SEDAST began its raffle in 2000 to raise money for art in local schools, they have accumulated nearly $29,000.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Kaufman, “what just a group of 15 artists can do for the kids.”
Each year, art teachers who want to improve their program and curriculum submit letters to the board of SEDAST, explaining their situation. This year, Frankford Elementary and Selbyville’s Phillips C. Showell Elementary were recipient schools of monies raised. Because Frankford Elementary enrolls a larger number of students, they received a larger donation.
“It’s proportioned out,” explained Cavagnaro. “It feels good to give back to the younger kids, too. In elementary school, everyone takes art. All the students will benefit from this. I remember going out and buying pencils and crayons when I was that age.”
“It’s really wonderful,” said Stake. “It’s incredible to see this much money, and the kids are very excited. We run out of a lot of markers and paint quickly, and this money can make a big difference.”
She added that she’d like to be able to eventually equip every student with a small art package around the holidays.
“Not every school replies back with a letter,” said Kaufman, “but we try to help those who need it most. Marci [Stake] told us that some of these kids don’t even have crayons at home to work with. When we reviewed the letter she submitted, there was no question that these kids should [benefit]. It’s nice for the children to have this connection with the art.”
Smith recognized Stake’s dedication to her students, as well.
“She’s been a great asset to our school,” he said. “She works very closely with homeroom teachers so she can include a lot of concepts and content area that matter from those classes into her art and computer lessons. It’s nice to have a donation like this to help her succeed even more. All of our specialists do a very good job, and we think that contributes to our students scoring very well on their tests scores and towards the school’s overall achievement.”
The SouthEastern Delaware Artist Studio Tour is held every year in the same week as Thanksgiving. For more information about the artists and the tour, visit www.artstudiotour.com.