Every Student an Artist at Sutter Elementary School
Story and photos by Diane Andrews

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Every Student an Artist at Sutter Elementary School

The Sutter Elementary School multi-purpose room was transformed into a colorful art gallery with more than 500 student drawings plus about 200 clay sculptures on March 7. A creative masterpiece by each and every K – 5th grade student was on display at Sutter's first school-wide Art in Action exhibit, sponsored by the PTA.

The young artists were eager to discuss their artwork.

"It's really fun and exciting learning about different kinds of art," agreed 4th grade friends Cora Lee and Erika Kuramoto.

Third grader Lukas Leu explained his creative process: "We drew a horse on a paper. Then we colored it and cut it out. Then we drew a background and glued the horse on it."

"It makes me feel awesome because I spent a lot of time practicing drawing my horse, and now I can draw a horse perfectly," said Leu. "Art class is cool because my mom also helps out."

The 3rd graders also did charcoal self-portraits following the lead of masters such as post-impressionist Vincent van Gogh.

"It felt kind of hard to do because I couldn't really see how I looked. I feel like I did a good job, but it doesn't exactly look like me," said Leena El-Domeiri, adding, "Art is a way to express your feelings."

"I feel [my self-portrait] turned out really good with the green background. It's a nice cool color for me. I like drawing with charcoal," said Oliver Luu.

The exhibit was an outcome of the 2016 - 2017 Art in Action program. The nonprofit, nation-wide organization designs sequential, age-appropriate student lessons that align with the National Visual Arts Standards. The online lessons are available to schools for an annual subscription fee per class.

Sutter Art in Action program and exhibit co-chair Yvonne Hirsch, who was the 2015 – 2016 PTA president, spearheaded a survey to assess the time availability and commitment of teachers to an Art in Action program. With their buy-in, the PTA then formed a committee to raise funds and support the teachers in bringing art to every student each month during the 2016 – 2017 school year.

"Today throughout the day, we held extended exhibit hours and 14 teachers led their classrooms on the tour. It was wonderful to see students finding their masterpieces and expressing confidence, joy and pride in their creations," said Hirsch.

"It's rewarding because the kids can express themselves through art and develop their motor skills," said Art in Action co-chair, Helena Sedlacikova. "It gives them a different perspective in seeing things, a different kind of experience. Not every child is an engineer, but they are perfect in art. In art, everyone is equal."

"I found it amazing that children with special needs are oftentimes amazing artists," said committee member Julie Laframboise. "They don't try to conform. They have their own viewpoints."

"I hope other schools will be inspired to explore feasible pathways to make art happen for students. It does take funding, coordination, and time commitment, but offering students such an enriching experience is well worth it," said Hirsch. "We are thrilled everything came together."

Other Santa Clara Unified School District elementary schools currently enrolled in the Art in Action Program are Briarwood, Haman, Millikin Basics +, Scott Lane and Westwood.

The annual Art in Action benefit gala is March 23, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Computer History Museum, Mountain View. For information and tickets, visit www.artinaction.org.