Visitors often inquire about the astounding volume and exceptional quality of student artwork displayed throughout the halls of Bramlett Elementary School in Oxford. While pencil and crayon drawings of “My Favorite Field Trip” and torn paper classics such as “Me on the Playground” may be quite ordinary by elementary school standards, the large painted canvases that line the hallways, and include such titles as “Bramlett’s Starry Night” and “Kindergarten Water Lilies,” are nothing less than extraordinary.
Even the most discerning critic is amazed to learn that the outstanding reproductions of the classic pieces were painted by Bramlett’s own kindergarten and first-grade art students.
Thus, during the spring of 2007, when one of those keen-eyed visitors suggested that the school sell a few paintings as a fundraiser, the seed was planted for an artistic challenge that would blossom into a finely detailed masterpiece of teacher expertise, parent dedication and sheer student talent.
The obvious choice for an art-based fundraiser was an auction.
“Before we began discussing ideas, I primarily wanted to develop a small fundraiser that would showcase student talent and raise money for future projects,” Bramlett art teacher Nicole Gist said. “However, when I met with our PTA representatives, and experienced their enthusiasm and creativity firsthand, I knew that a larger-scale student art auction was completely possible.”
Beyond conceptualization, technical planning for the fundraising project, aptly named “Brushstrokes for Bramlett,” began in January. A silent auction method and an off-campus location for the event were among the first details agreed upon.
While the Bramlett PTA orchestrated a professional style showing at Oxford’s Southside Gallery, Gist tapped into her artistic treasure chest and versatile palette of teaching skills and began the process of selecting the paintings that the students would reproduce. “I wanted to select both classic and contemporary pieces that students could relate to and paint successfully,” Gist said.
The final selections for the 17 painting repertoire included timeless still-life pieces such as Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, abstract replicas such as Piet Modrian’s Composition with Red Blue Yellow and contemporary interpretations such as Natasha Wescoat’s With the Waves.
With 40 minutes per week of art instruction and only six weeks until the April auction, Gist and her students went to work. First-graders in each of 17 classes added their personal touches to a 24-by-36 classroom canvas, while Gist supervised and taught the lesson of the day. “The art room was a three-ring circus,” Gist said. “Planning is crucial for a project of this magnitude.”
The planning paid off and Gist’s hope for showcasing student work and earning supply funds has come to fruition. In fact, the Bramlett Elementary School PTA is already planning for future art events. “I’m most excited about our new kiln,” Gist said. “Our students are geniuses with their hands… maybe pottery will be auctioned next year.”
SuzAnne Liddell is principal of Bramlett Elementary School in Oxford.