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Grant award inspires kindergartners' priceless art

It was a beautiful mix – kindergarten teachers at Northwest Elementary School, some 60 of their students, volunteers from the school faculty and the community, a local artist, a grant award to buy supplies like canvas boards and acrylic paint and the enthusiasm of the little artists.

Female teacher works with kindergarten student on painting.The result of that creative work Tuesday? A painting of flowers from every student just in time for Mother’s Day.

“It’s an exciting time. They never had this experience. Painting on a canvas is totally new,” kindergarten teacher Karen Croom said as the students dabbed their brushes and followed the instructions of artist Laura Jackson.

Croom wrote the grant that funded the project, one of 56 grants awarded in January by the Lenoir County Education Foundation with a total value of $23,848. Each year, the foundation and its parent organization, the Lenoir County Chamber of Commerce, award grants of up to $500 to LCPS teachers with money raised from community events and private donations.

Laura Jackson volunteered to lead the painting party because of the important place she believes creative expression has in education. An artist who works out of Art 105 in downtown Kinston, she spent decades in classrooms as an art teacher before retiring.

“With music and dance, art is one of the best ways students can express themselves freely,” Jackson said. “They desperately need to do that. They’ve got to work that creative side, the right side of that brain, to become a more well-rounded person.”

Tall woman in blue shirt works with kindergarten students painting at table.While kindergartners at Northwest draw and color and create in their classrooms on a regular basis, they also benefit from some outside inspiration, like Jackson’s instruction on Tuesday or the session that Paul Rigsby, who retired as art teacher at North Lenoir High School, did with them earlier in the school year.

“These are opportunities for the kids to learn to draw, color, mix their colors – opportunities to integrate art into education,” Croom said.

The value of her grant that made the Little Artists Project possible: $375. The value of the paintings it produced: Priceless.

Photo captions (from top):

Northwest Elementary School teacher Karen Croom lends a hand Tuesday while some 60 kindergartners painted flowers on canvas boards. A grant Croom won from the Lenoir County Education Foundation funded the purchase of supplies for the Little Artists Projects.

Laura Jackson, who set up a studio at Art 105 in Kinston after spending decades in classrooms as an art teacher, volunteered to lead the Little Artists Project at Northwest Elementary School because of the important place she believes creative expression has in education.