Beach School Art Exhibit
For eleven months out of every year, well-known artists from Fort Myers Beach, the Fort Myers Beach Art Association, and even local and national artistic professionals grace the 3rd Floor Exhibit area of the Fort Myers Beach Public Library. For the month of May, however, the Library turns its valued display room over to its nearby Heart Of The Island neighbors, the students of the Beach Elementary School!
The artists in the exhibit are Beach Elementary School students from the 1st through 5th grade, explained Holly Nichols, the Beach School Art Coordinator. “We created ornaments that the Estero Island Garden Club uses to decorate the Christmas tree in the library several years ago, along with a few other activities, so that began our relationship between the Fort Myers Beach Public Library and the Beach Elementary School. At the start of the next academic year, the late Library director, Dr. Leroy Hommerding, displayed downstairs sculptures that we created, then asked us to fill the 3rd floor gallery that upcoming April. We did that and now are in our third consecutive year, including the last two for May.”
Ms. Holly stated that “even though I would love to display all the artwork from every single student, there is only room at the Library for 32 pieces of art in the gallery, although a few of the kids did get two pieces into the exhibit. It was very tough to choose which ones to include in the Library show, as the kids work so hard and have such great imaginations and inventiveness.”
There are several different types of subject matter to see in the exhibit, with one type in particular being the 4th Grade artwork, where those students studied the photography of Joel Sartore. “He created a Photo Ark to bring awareness to endangered species all over the world,” Ms. Holly related, “as he photographed nearly 10,000 species! The students chose a photograph from his artwork and did a study of the animal in that picture. After that, they used collage and paint to recreate their own interpretation of it. Some of the other works that really catch my eye are designs from 3rd, 4th and 5th Grade kids that we use to decorate the covers of the Beach Elementary School’s annual Yearbook, Student Planners and School Calendars!”
Most of the art projects conducted at the Beach Elementary School, offered Ms. Holly, “are directed from the very beginning, to help teach technique and processes, then once we get down the basics of the design, the students are free to add their own individual creativity and style to their work. When people see the display at the Library, they will notice and I hope be inspired and have a good time enjoying all the artistry and hard work that the kids employ, and realize we have a wonderful art program here at the Beach Elementary School. Even though we work very hard, we also have a lot of fun with the creative process, and to me, in this show, that comes through loud and clear.”
As for what she thinks of the masterpieces produced by her charges, “I am always so pleased with what our students come up with,” Ms. Holly said! “The students display such a great effort, and it always makes me so happy to see how they are engaged in their creativity, with such outstanding results.”
Because the students and their families have such varied schedules, there is no “Meet the Artists” session this month. “It would be difficult for many of the families to make it during just a one-hour time frame, as their schedules are so tight,” she said. “Parents receive a letter about their child’s artwork that is in the show, with information about where and when they can visit at their own personal convenience. Since the Library is open for so many hours in May, including Saturday mornings, we felt this the best way, where they can visit at a time that works best individually for each of them, to spend as much time there looking at the artwork as they like.”
Why Teach Art?
The Fort Myers Beach community is still dealing with the tragedy of the senseless homicide of Dr. Hommerding in January, at the entrance to the Library that he loved so much. “”We did not discuss Dr. Hommerding in my art class,” shared Ms. Holly, “but I know how much he enjoyed looking at and hanging the artwork for the display of the Beach Elementary School kids; he was such a supporter of our art program!”
Ms. Holly believes that art is crucial to a well-rounded education. “Study after study shows that those students who are lucky enough to take art in school do so much better, not only with their other class work, but in life and in how they can relate to other people and experiences.”
To view the artwork of the Beach Elementary School students, visit the Fort Myers Beach Library’s 3rd Floor Exhibit Area throughout May. The Library is at 2755 Estero Boulevard, with hours Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and closed Sundays and holidays, including Memorial Day on Monday, May 27. For more information, see www.fmb.lib.fl.us or call 239-765-8162.
“I am so lucky to have the opportunity to have my students display their artwork in the community for others to enjoy,” Ms. Holly concluded. “I love that the general public gets a chance to see what we are doing here at Beach Elementary School! The students love seeing their own artwork displayed anywhere, and especially when that occurs outside of the school building, like at the Fort Myers Beach Library, as that is always so exciting for them. Helping these kids to feel good about themselves, to gain confidence, and have a creative outlet is why I am an art teacher!”
By Gary Mooney