Arts & Culture / Mosaic / May 13, 2009

Students paint what they see

Dressed in their finest attire, the men of Sigma Chi managed four separate tables lined with 75 paintings ready for bidding. Next to each painting, a sheet of paper named the work, the artist, and suggested bidding, which started at $10. Students and community members milled from table to table and periodically swarmed around their favorite paintings to make sure they placed the highest bid before a table closed.

Several of the artists were also present to mingle with the students and watch as their work sold to the highest bidder. On average, the paintings sold for $21.07 and the highest bid, made by senior Sam Jarvis, was $100. All together, the auction raised $1,623, mostly through painting sales.

The artists, third-graders from Silas Willard Elementary School, were pleased with the auction’s outcome.

“It’s so exciting to come here and see people bidding on your work,” said artist Emma Hallbert, 9.

“Some of them were pretty wide-eyed,” said junior John Eiseman, an organizer of the event. “Some sold for $45. To a third grader, $45 is all the money in the world.”

The event, “Put Galesburg Schools Back on the Map,” was organized by Sigma Chi to raise money for new classroom maps. Starting this year, several members of the fraternity have spent between one and two hours a week at Silas Willard volunteering for third grade classrooms. They noticed that the maps were outdated and decided to create a fundraiser.

“Quality learning equipment inspires learning,” said Eiseman. “It’s not only putting the school on the map but also putting the kids on the map.”

Eiseman said the idea for an auction came from one student who had made several drawings but did not have a venue to show them in. From there, the idea to show his students’ art developed into a project incorporating all the students into a plan to raise money for their classrooms.

In conjunction with the education department at Knox, Eiseman developed a lesson plan about how artists interact with their community and how the community interacts with artists.

“Artists see their community through a certain lens,” said Eiseman. He asked the students to look at their community and create their work as a reflection of what they saw and felt.

“It was pretty hard to picture what we wanted to draw,” said artist Olivia Turner, 9. “They just said to paint what you saw in your community.”

First, the students talked about their community, then sketched their pictures onto canvas in pencil. After their ideas were solidified, they began to paint. They learned how to use different colors and layers to create their work.

“On mine, I spilled water, but that made it pretty cool,” said Hallbert, whose painting was titled “A Night Fall.”

“[Hallbert’s painting] looked like clouds in the sky,” said Turner.

“It is just the night. It makes me remember the Fourth of July night fun,” said Hallbert.

Turner’s painting, “Good Fortune,” is a picture of a rainbow with an empty pot of gold at the end.

“I always see rainbows and I wonder what would happen if I went to the end and the pot of gold was empty,” said Turner. “I called it ‘Good Fortune’ even though it’s bad fortune.”

The members of Sigma Chi helped the artists write titles for their work. Pictures ranged from abstract designs to flowers to pictures of tractors plowing the fields around Galesburg.

“I just think it’s marvelous,” said Tammy Myers, ’76, a third grade teacher at Silas Willard. “The guys are just wonderful with the kids. I think its heartening to me to see these guys so into the community and helping the school.”

She said her students are very excited each week when Sigma Chi members visit her classroom and enjoyed the painting project. For many of them, this was their first opportunity to paint on a canvas.

At first, Myers said, she was wary of the project.

“I said ‘well, okay, but third graders really don’t know how to paint’,” said Myers. “It was neat for them to know their painting was part of a service project.”

Her excitement eventually grew, along with the students’ and Sigma Chi members’. Myers was impressed with the final auction and hopes that her students continue painting.

“It will be interesting to see where they go from here,” said Myers. “It’s been a wonderful experience for everyone.”

Eiseman said they wanted to make the auction as professional as possible, with nice tables, food and formal presentation.

“[Setting up] was an all-nighter, but it was worth it,” said Eiseman. “I thought it was cool that a lot of [Knox] students came and bought paintings.”

Over the course of the year, those who have volunteered at Silas Willard have gotten to know the teachers and students in their classrooms. Eiseman is planning on continuing the project next year and hopes to eventually expand the opportunity to visit classrooms to the entire campus.

“It’s really rewarding to hear everyone talk about [volunteering] as the best part of their week,” said Eiseman. “It’s really been the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Since the volunteers go to Silas Willard every week, they were hoping that holding the event at Knox would bring some of their students to the college for a visit.

“We wanted to show them that there was higher education than public school,” said Eiseman.

Ady Eastburg, 8, painted a picture of a flower with a green, orange, blue and purple background. She titled it “First Wonders.”

“Mine’s going to be hung up here at Knox,” she said, proudly. “I’m going to come back and visit.”

Laura Miller

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