Monsters go to high school

Published 6:18 pm Tuesday, April 4, 2023

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Suffolk Public Schools’ Department of Fine and Performing Arts is celebrating a new project that brings together kindergarten and high school art students to collaborate in expressing their creativity.

Aptly named “Collaborative Monsters,” the project saw students from Kilby Shores Elementary’s kindergarten class draw monsters from their dreams, including nightmares, and give them individual characteristics. These monsters are then sent over to King’s Fork High School’s Art I students where they are redrawn, while retaining characteristics the kindergarteners gave them. Plus they are given additional background. Both artworks helped create a piece that displayed at the March 25 SPS Youth Art Month Festival.

King’s Fork High School Art Teacher Sarah Rhodes explained how both kindergarteners and her Art I students took on this creative adventure.

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“Their project was to take the kindergartners’ monster, along with their characteristics, and refine them and add a background,” Rhodes explained. “They then wrote a short story that included the characteristics of the monster.”

Through the project, she said her students explored the career path of being a children’s book author and illustrator as they were tasked with making a piece that would be shown at our Youth Art Month Festival. 

“My students were excited to be able to work with the kindergartners,” Rhodes said.

Along with having both students show their creativity and celebrate their artistry at the festival, this collaboration saw Rhodes partner with Angie Salerno of Kilby Shores Elementary, who also was her first art teacher when she attended KSE as a student. 

Rhodes talked about the opportunity to work with her former teacher.

Working with Mrs. Salerno was beyond great and I am glad she agreed to do the collaborative project with me. She is a big role model to me and was my inspiration to step into the field of being an art educator,” Rhodes expressed. “I have been fortunate to be able to keep in touch with her since I was in elementary school and now be a colleague of hers. Being able to work with her on a project with both of our different levels of students was an amazing experience.”

With Collaborative Monsters being a success for both schools, hopes are high to continue the project and even make it a yearly, division-wide initiative by SPS Coordinator of Fine and Performing Arts Dr. Joleen Neighbours. 

Rhodes is excited by what this can mean for students. 

“I hope that both groups of students learned that their art matters, no matter the skill level, they have a vision and people want to see it,” she said. “I hope this has given students an idea of a new possible career path that they can pursue. I hope to continue this project in the years to come and hope to have some of Mrs. Salerno’s kindergartners someday so they can experience the other half of the project and make it come full circle.”