From left: Kayla Rife, Valerie Thomas, Kelsey Kerr and Ashton Saunders
Photo courtesy of Ashton Saunders

Washington Elementary teachers and Artisan Shoppe and Studio staff teamed up last week to host Family Art Night at the school. In its second year at Washington Elementary, Gallipolis City School District elementary art teacher Ashton Saunders said Family Art Night was originally started years ago at Green Elementary and Rio Grande elementary by previous art teacher Lolita Casto-Mullen. Saunders carried on the tradition and also established the evening at Washington Elementary.

According to Saunders, the Family Art Nights give students exposure to the arts outside of the classroom.

“We want to provide ways to bring the arts to our students at either minimal or no cost to them. Our art teachers in the Gallipolis City School District seek out every opportunity possible to expand art education in our district and community,” said Saunders. “Our students don’t have major art museums next door, and because of that we bring the art to them. We want our students to have the same art education and opportunities as students living in Columbus. Family Art Night provides that extra art experience and brings families into our schools, which is always a good thing.”

Last week’s event at Washington Elementary was a “Cookie and Canvas” Family Art Night to coincide with the Christmas season. To assist with the event, Saunders partnered with The Artisan Shoppe & Studio staff.

Photo courtesy of The Artisan Shoppe & Studio

“This year at Washington, we had our biggest turn out ever for a Family Art Night, with around 130 people attending. I knew with that number, I would need [to bring] another artist in to assist. The first people that came to mind were Valerie Thomas and Kelsey Kerr from the Artisan Shoppe & Studio,” said Saunders. “Valerie and Kelsey’s goals for the arts in our community align with mine – to bring our residents and students as many art opportunities as possible. I have been working with them for years, teaching evening classes and workshops at their studio. It also gave my students the opportunity to work with another artist and see that the arts are alive in Gallia County.”

For the Cookies and Canvas event, Saunders said families purchased tickets that covered the price of their canvas and the organizers supplied the paint and brushes. In addition, cookies and punch were available as refreshments.

“Christmas music played over the sound system to get everyone in the holiday spirit as they arrived  and got settled in to paint. The painting was a guided step-by-step, but participants were able to add their own details to their painting such as snowflakes,” said Saunders. “It was awesome to see the variation and painting styles and details!”

Saunders led the painting, and Thomas, Kerr and Washington Elementary 1st Grade teacher Kayla Rife, who is also a face painter, assisted the crowd.

As for the Artisan Shoppe and Studio staff’s thoughts on participating, Thomas said they enjoy being able to help with painting activities with all ages.

“The turn out for Family Art Night was huge and wonderful,” said Kerr. “It was so great to have been invited to be involved in events like that, where we are helping fill a need for more art exposure and opportunities for families in our area.”

“This is a yearly tradition we hope to continue for many years,” said Saunders.

Over the years, Family Art Nights have featured activities that included clay leaf bowls, Jackson Pollock “action painting, Louise Nevelson wood sculptures, collage family trees, printmaking and they even teamed up with Christopher and Jeanette Canyon, who write and illustrate books based on John Denver songs, such as “Country Roads, Take Me Home” and “Grandma’s Feather Bed.”

The Green and Rio Grande Elementary Family Art Nights will take place later in 2018.

Outside of Family Art Nights, Saunders said the Gallipolis City School District art department participates in several events and endeavors throughout the year. Right now, the community can visit the “art tree” display in the Gallipolis City Park. The tree features hand painted ornaments belonging to elementary school, middle school and high school Gallipolis City School District art students and their teachers, Saunders (Green, Rio Grande and Washington elementary schools), Terri Crothers (GAMS) and Lolita Casto-Mullen (GAHS).

Other events include the Gallipolis City Schools student art exhibition and a new music and art event.

“I will be teaming up with Washington music teacher Marilyn Wills to put on an “Appalachian Festival” during the month of March at Washington Elementary,” said Saunders. “It will feature student performances of Appalachian music and displays of student created Appalachian folk art. We plan to bring in Appalachian musicians, artists and writers to have presentations and workshops with the students. Our goal for the festival is to highlight the creativity and traditions of Appalachia.

As for the Artisan Shoppe and Studio, they were recently hired to host a painting event at Point Pleasant Primary School and, because there was so much interest in the event, they will return for an additional date in January. They also partnered with the Gallipolis Junior Women’s Club to host their Cookies and Canvas fundraiser event.

“We are always willing to help and partner with schools, organizations, businesses, and private parties to provide whatever art events they might be interested in,” said Kerr. “We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization made possible through unpaid volunteer work.  We are constantly growing and evolving to provide the best range of art and culture opportunities in the area.  We hope we can continue to get more and more support for the arts, in general, as well as our organization, so we can continue to grow and flourish.”

For more information about The Artisan Shoppe & Studio visit their website at https://www.theartisanshoppe.org/ or follow them on social media at https://www.facebook.com/TheArtisanShoppe/ or on Instagram.