“Colorful, creative and necessary,” is how Art Teacher JoAnn Grambush described ArtSpring, an art festival designed specifically for Northshore middle and high school students who are supported by the Functional Skills & Academics (FSA) program. Grambush, who teaches art part-time at Kenmore Middle and Bothell High, along with Skyview parent Alison Brownlee spearheaded the event, which was held in May.
Brownlee said the vision for ArtSpring was, “finding art projects to develop and design so that students can shine in the community of their peers.”
“Students are looking to have special art activities that they can step into, do with success and experience during a day away with their peers,” added Grambush. “Creative interaction and being with their peers and art is just part of being human.”
Twelve local artists guided students throughout the day, along with a number of parent and student volunteers and staff.
One artist, Joan Patterson, created ‘Stand Up’ art for students during the day, using long handled adapted art tools. “We are stamping these long pieces of butcher paper with mostly circular shapes,” said Patterson. “There are some silhouettes of the students that will be cut out and laid over them. So we’re creating backdrops for a future installation.”
Students walked through the art festival with a bingo card of 16 projects to attend and check off. Some of the projects that students worked on included: fish, flower and labyrinth rubbings, painted butterflies, 3D jellyfish spinners, glittery sensory pouches, and a giant collaborative fishnet weaving. Therapy dogs were a big favorite as well as the caricature artist and face painter.
Kenmore Middle School eighth grader Jenny Espejo volunteered to help with the Koi Fish Pond project where students used flip flops and other objects to stamp over koi fish stencils. The stamps created the blue water for the koi fish. The pond artwork will be on display in various locations throughout Northshore including the District office, schools and the Lynnwood Recreation Center.
“I feel really lucky being with kids and special needs kids because I like to see them smile,” said Espejo.
The koi pond was a monumental project for one student who had never used two hands before.
“There was a breakthrough there,” said Brownlee. “Whereas traditional therapy didn’t click, something with the art clicked and the student was able to use two hands in this activity.”
This breakthrough was just one of the many benefits of the day.
FSA students were paired with general education students to help guide them through the activities. Quincy Moran, a seventh grader at Skyview Middle School helped eighth grader Elan Le through each of the stations to create whatever she wished.
“My favorite part was seeing Elan work by herself because she can do it,” said Moran.
Hugo Semere, a seventh grader at Skyview Middle School helped fellow Skyview student Chloe Brooks throughout the day. Semere had worked with Brooks before at school and appreciated being able to work with her outside the classroom.
“We worked on making squishy pouches and bark rub art. We did those koi ponds and we just painted a lot,” said Semere.
Semere enjoyed the day and said he’d rate it a five out of five and noted, “she (Brooks) is starting to interact with people and take pictures with people. I was just happy to see her ‘let her hair down’.”
North Creek High School junior Koa Bartholomew said that he mixed colors during the day. “I did it with creative thinking,” he said.
In preparation for the event, students worked on art projects so that they would know what to expect at ArtSpring. This was also beneficial for volunteers of the event because it allowed them to develop an understanding of the students who they’d be working with the day of the event. Each student in attendance created a colorful stamped piece of artwork in the weeks and months leading up to ArtSpring. They created a backdrop and then Brownlee and Grambush pasted a photo of them on their art.
“Today was really wonderful to see them come in and be so excited to see their pictures like they are famous, and that seems to be a key element in all of the projects: finding a way for them to see themselves,” said Brownlee.
ArtSpring was made possible by a Safeway/Albertsons Grant that Grambush secured. Various PTSAs from the participating schools also helped fund the event. Moving forward, Brownlee and Grambush intend to have this event annually, along with monthly opportunities at the secondary schools to develop a sense of community through art. They hope to extend it to elementary students too.
“Art is for everyone and there’s no right or wrong way to do it,” said Brownlee. “Art, drama, and music are great, noncompetitive ways to come together and find something in common and that’s where we connect. We need to start modeling how it is to be included outside of the classroom, so when these students go out and they graduate people know to connect with them as well.”
Learn more by visiting the ArtSpring webpage.