PRIEST LAKE— In celebration of the 10th anniversary of “ArtSmart”, a program created to underwrite the Priest Lake Elementary School’s art program, Autumn’s Loft, Buena Vista Studio and the Entree Gallery conducted a summer-long “Art Walk.” Priest Lake residents and summer tourists were encouraged to purchase a “passport” for visiting the three art shops, which entered them in a end-of-season drawing. The Priest Lake Elementary children drew the winning ticket on September 4th at Autumn’s Loft. The grand-prize winner, Randy McNiece, won $450 in art pieces created by area artists, donated by the shops. The event raised $657 for the students’ art program.
ArtSmart was begun in 2003 by The Entree Gallery to commemorate its 25th anniversary. When the Martins, owners of the gallery, became aware that funding for the local school’s art program had dropped to a level that barely covered the cost of construction paper, they envisioned a program that would help provide funds specifically for the arts. “Although it has been well documented that music and art are an integral and necessary part of brain development in children, funding for these programs is most often the first to be cut in our public school system”, explained Pam Martin. Together with family, friends, gallery staff, community volunteers, 44 regional artists, and generous public support, the gallery held its first ArtSmart benefit auction. It was a resounding success, raising $22,000, part of which was earmarked for a ceramics kiln.
ArtSmart has continued to assist the school’s arts program for the past decade, enabling students to learn self-expression through the language of art. Regional artists donate their time to teach the students, while ArtSmart provides funds for basic supplies, paper, brushes, paints, glazes and clay. Marita McDonough, a recent volunteer guest artist who has given classes in porcelain, is convinced of the program’s value, adding “The enthusiasm and interest the students show in creating artwork is proof itself of the enrichment art brings to their lives.”
“We try to show the students a little bit of everything, from watercolors, stained glass, glass ornaments, and ceramics” explained volunteer Jeanie Melvin, who assists the children in making greeting cards and story chains which are available at local gift shops.
ArtSmart has also provided the students with experiences in the performing arts. The internationally renowned Missoula Children's Theater visits the school each year, works with the children all week, then helps the students present a musical production on Friday. “As a parent, I am astounded by the generosity of artists who have helped to provide resources, and provide such quality art experiences to such a small school” commented Allison Hagman, who has been involved in bringing the internationally renowned theater group to the school.
Jeanie Melvin is looking for artists and volunteers to help this winter. If you are available, or if you would like to make a donation, please call the Priest Lake Elementary School at (208) 443-2555.