St. Mary’s Elementary School celebrated art of all forms with their annual Arts Fest Thursday, May 9.
The Arts Fest has been an annual tradition at St. Mary’s for years.
The event was started by art and music teacher Carol Blankman six years ago when she was strictly an art teacher.
Blankman believes that all students should be given the opportunity to explore their strengths and interests while at school, as well as widening their horizons by working on projects outside of their comfort zone. The Arts Fest showcased a wide variety of art, showing many different styles and mediums. In addition to the art projects, students did several songs and dances. Each grade performed a song and the school as a whole sang two songs together. The band performed two songs as well.
The halls throughout the school were decorated with art with many projects displayed near the students’ classroom so parents could see what each grade was working on during the year. Teachers were not in the classrooms, but the doors were left open so parents could see in-class art in addition to the projects. St. Mary’s staff thought the open house feel would be pleasant for everyone involved since the new building meant a lot of changes for teachers, students, and parents.
St. Mary’s Elementary School started the year in the newly completed building, which provided both joys and challenges for the students and staff. The school’s keyword this year was “flexible,” as everyone had to adjust to a new format for classes and events. Blankman said she has three regular volunteers that come in to help with the twice-weekly art class to assist with the students’ projects. Without the volunteers, it would be very difficult to accomplish so much, Blankman added.
Blankman said the increased space and large gymnasium were both a blessing and a challenge when it came to organizing the Arts Fest. She added that it was a huge help to have all the extra space to display the art, but figuring out where to put everything was an exercise in patience and creativity. Blankman said that with the first Arts Fest completed in the new building, next year’s event will be even better since the staff now knows what will and won’t work.
Blankman was concerned about setting up the gymnasium so that everyone in the audience could see the students properly and have enough space to move around, but the school’s new bleachers and gymnasium made it possible. The Arts Fest had a full house in attendance, filling most, if not all, of the 450 seats available for the event. Despite the massive turnout, which Blankman said was a very positive show of support for the students, the audience didn’t have any trouble seeing the performance. Blankman also added that the event wouldn’t have been possible without the army of volunteers that helped with matting and displaying artwork, setting up chairs, and other Arts Fest preparation.
There was entertainment for everyone at the 2013 Arts Fest. Aside from the artwork adorning the walls in the hallways, there were several tables set up in the cafeteria with sculptures and refreshments. The sixth grade class made ceramic food, which people were able to vote on for most realistic color and shape. The ballots will be totaled and a “People’s Choice” award will be given at the end of the year. The fifth grade made “wall pockets” from clay, which they had to fill with an item of their choice. Fourth graders did copper embossing and the third grade recycled old books into abstract art. Blankman said she had an interesting time trying to explain the concept of abstract art to the students, but the final products evidence her success. The second grade made papier mache “Angry Birds” and the first grade made 3D objects to go along with nursery rhymes. Kindergarten students completed artwork that was displayed in the halls.
There were far too many projects to mention, but it's likely anyone who attended St. Mary’s Arts Fest could attest to the massive amount of talent the students displayed. Blankman teaches art to all students from kindergarten to sixth grade, though the preschool does their own art.
There are, however, four teachers that cover music classes. Blankman teaches music to fourth, fifth, and sixth grades, Kathy Murray teaches second and third grades, Jen Blankman teaches first grade, and Jenny Smith teaches music to kindergarten. All of the grades gave exceptional performances at the Arts Fest, exhibiting a wide variety of styles from different genres of music and dance.
Organizer offered thanks to the time and dedication of St. Mary’s band teacher, Nick Parcell, without whom the band itself wouldn’t be possible. Parcell is the music teacher at Greensburg Junior High School and he travels to St. Mary’s three days a week to teach band for the sixth grade students. Parcell’s predecessor began this practice more than 10 years ago, providing access to band for St. Mary’s students.
The 2013 St. Mary’s Arts Fest was a success for all involved. Teachers and staff were able to see their hard work and planning come to fruition, as well as witnessing the students’ parents enjoy the art and music.
Students were able to showcase their talents and interests to their parents and receive the praise, and resulting confidence, that can be so important to children. Meanwhile, parents were able to see their children blossom through the arts.
Next year should be even better, Blankman said.
More photos from St. Mary’s 2013 Arts Fest can be found at www.greensburgdailynews.smugmug.com in the school gallery.
Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111 x7004