Creativity & Confidence
“The Beach Elementary School Art Club has partnered with the Fort Myers Beach Public Library for the last five years,” said Holly Nichols, the school’s Art Coordinator, in explaining her charges being the April Artists of the Month at the Library’s 3rd floor gallery. “We create ornaments the Fort Myers Beach Garden Club uses to decorate the Christmas tree, as well as other activities, so the relationship between the Library and School was already there. At the beginning of this academic year, its director, Dr. Leroy Hommerding, displayed our sculptures downstairs, so he asked us to fill the 3rd floor gallery for April. We reserved the space that now features 38 works from 27 Art Club students that range from keyhole perspectives, giraffes and owls, assorted balls and various characters.”
Ms. Holly says that “the exhibit is mostly drawings and paintings, though there is a mixture of photography, as some fifth graders combined illustration with physical interaction that turned out amazing! I am so happy with what they came up with that it just had to become part of the show. The funny thing is, most of the kids didn’t know they were in the exhibit until we were ready to hang their artwork!”
She explains that “the Art Club is an afterschool organization we open to the 4th and 5th grade. This year we had over 20 kids sign up, and that is just too many at one time for a learning experience, so we divided it in half, with the first group meeting Fall semester and now the rest in Spring. The smaller size allows me to give each artist individual attention, and we actually accomplish more with greater quality.” For their Artists of the Month show, the club project was owls; their current one is stage props for the school play, “Snow White,” on May 4 & 5, with tickets through the school at $4-per-person.
“The strength of the Library display shows that the Art Club does not necessarily rely always on the same kids to provide the most creative works,” offers Ms. Holly, “but that all the students bring their own assets and contributions, as each child finds their own way and are extraordinary, so they surprise you. One of the reasons they join Art Club is to get extra time in the art room, so they constantly draw in completely different mediums and become so good, then they experience the excitement of showing off that creativity by having something up in the community, to share with their parents and friends and strangers. It is fun to have their artwork out in public and not just in school.”
Finding Your Identity
In addition to their improved talent, Ms. Holly witnesses another huge benefit to being in displays like that at the Library – “the corresponding increase in their individual confidence!” This is a situation to which she can personally relate: “I was that student in elementary school, when art hit me and I just went, ‘gosh – this is it!’ I knew this is what I wanted to be and that art was my future; you find your identity. In fact, as I graduated from Cypress Lake High School, the Fort Myers Beach Art Association awarded me one of its scholarships that I used to attain my degree at Florida State University. It is weird I am now here teaching art to the beach kids, and the Art Association members think that is kind of cool!”
Holly hopes her young artists take away several things from the Art Club experience: “Appreciate the arts, and retain that connection as they grow up and out of school, so when they keep up with their drawings, or go to a museum or gallery, they refuel that connection, and feel and know what is in front of them. Also, the personal self-confidence they gain, which is why we work so hard to provide the Art Club that is a place where you come, relaxed and without anxiety, to use the other side of their brain that schools too often ignore. At Art Club, there is no right or wrong answer, but is a place to just let your imagination run wild with no pressure to produce your best result. If they can achieve that, I know they will all be fine!”
The Beach Elementary School Art Club exhibit remains in the 3rd floor gallery through April. To see the Fort Myers Beach Library’s free April programs go to www.fmb.lib.fl.us; for related details call 239-765-8162. The library is at 2755 Estero Boulevard; hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with Wednesday to 7 p.m. Saturday hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; closed Sunday and holidays.