by CINDY M. CRANMER
More than one-third of the students at Lakes Elementary School participated in the first-ever art competition and creativity display at the Rockford school.
Art Attack, which the students considered as their version of ArtPrize, included entries from kindergarten through fifth-grade students, according to Matt Zokoe, the fourth-grade teacher who led the Lakes Elementary Student Council in putting together the event.
The Lakes Student Council wanted to coordinate an event for the school as part of their mission. Art Attack allows students to express their creativity without feeling compelled to do a project in a particular manner. The entries in Art Attack were completed and on display as part of the annual Art Make-and-Take.
Kenn Vidro, art teacher, has a passion for art, whether creating it or helping students learn how to express their creativity.
“Art is about the students expressing their creativity,” Vidro said. Art Attack allowed students to do any type of artwork that was original.
Vidro said some students did artwork to share with other people, such as paintings on canvas, which they are not able to do in art classes because of the expense and don’t want to do just for themselves.
All 504 students at Lakes Elementary had works on display at the Art Make-and-Take. There were 161 entries and 190 participants in the first Art Attack.
Students were able to either enter an individual piece or work with someone on their artwork.
Zokoe said all students did their piece on their own time and received a ribbon for participation. “We wanted to emphasize this is about an art expression not art competition,” he said.
The Lakes Elementary students were able to vote and choose their favorite 10 entries as part of Art Attack. The winners, whether an individual or a pair of students, received recognition certificates and gift cards for entry to visit the art at Fred Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park along with recognition at an all-school assembly.
“This allowed students to go outside the mold and be individuals,” Zokoe said.
The Lakes Elementary Student Council funds its projects, such as the costs of Art Attack and donations to Kids Food Baskets, through events such as a school store.
“The students have been inspired by Mr. V. Where we see a need, we’re there to help. This seemed a good fit for the school project,” Zokoe said.
Students were able to do pencil and crayon drawings, use modeling clay, make original Lego entries, paint pictures, use chalk, do canvas works, make three-dimensional dioramas, develop yarn creations, do stamping, make pottery creations and more.
“We wanted it to be ‘my piece is just as good as everyone else’s,’ not ‘who has the best entries,’” Zokoe said.
Besides the students who entered, Zokoe said, there also were students who worked on pieces that ended up not entering them so it could be closer to half the student body who participated. “We’re very happy with the participation for the first year,” he said.
“It was so good to see the kids take a chance,” Vidro said. “They were creative in coming up with ideas and executing them. I like the freedom of expression that happened.”
Vidro takes time each year to express his creativity with his yearly ArtPrize entry as well. Vidro plans to develop his third ArtPrize entry over the summer.
ArtPrize is an art contest that takes place yearly in Grand Rapids and gets applicants locally, from the United States as well as other countries. Cartooning and painting are among the art mediums he most enjoys.
“Art Attack and the Art Make-and-Take are a perfect fit. There couldn’t be a better match,” Vidro said. “The Art Attack was a real attention getter for our yearly event.”
“The arts are alive and well,” he added.
“There’s been a great buzz about Art Attack,” said Lakes Elementary School Principal Blake Bowman. “This is a great chance for the parents to see the magic the kids see everyday.”
Bowman said kindergarten screenings happened to be during Art Attack as well, so new families to the school had the opportunity to see the creativity of the students.
“This was a chance for all the kids to spotlight their unique talents and passions. It was a great chance for kids to express themselves,” Bowman said.
“This was fun. You got to make cool stuff,” said Stella Cizauskas, a first-grade student. “It’s awesome. I’ll probably do it again next year.”
Akselis Daukss, a third-grade student, worked with his brother and created a large ship that was one of the 10 student-voted finalists. “I thought I was dreaming or something,” Daukss said. “It was exciting.”
Daukss said Vidro is an inspiration to him. “I think Mr. V is awesome and the greatest teacher,” Daukss said.
Sam Bristol, a first-grader who entered an Angry Birds drawing in Art Attack, and his classmate, Zachary Cranmer, both said they enjoyed making entries for Art Attack.
Cranmer, who entered a three-dimensional diorama of a city focusing on “the police who serve and protect,” said he also enjoyed viewing the other artwork.
“It’s about having fun and learning to do art. Everyone gets to do what they want and that’s cool. I like to look at what other people make and create my own art. It’s like we got to do ArtPrize,” Cranmer said.
Elizabeth Lane, a first-grader, also enjoyed creating her entry. “It was really fun making something for the Art Attack.”
Allie Vandenburg, a second-grader, and her mother, Kim, both like the idea of Art Attack and hope that it becomes an annual event. “We do a lot of arts and crafts at home,” Vandenburg said.
The teachers also felt that Art Attack was a great opportunity for students.
“Art Attack drew attention to the Art Make-and-Take,” said Chris Pitsch, first-grade teacher. “It’s a great match.”
“It’s so fantastic to see the families being social, mingling, smiling and enjoying their children’s artwork,” Bowman said. “Both of these events are really great things.”
“It’s a great idea to see the kids’ creativity in all different forms,” said Frances Peasley, mother to first-grader Declan Shannon. “It’s nice to see the variety. I hope they continue to have these types of events.”
While Shannon’s entry did not make the top 10, his piece was one of the student favorites, according to school officials. The Lego train station he made came from his own creativity and was popular among his peers.
“I had fun,” Shannon said. “I want to do it again.”
Vidro said he hopes Art Attack also continues in the future and having it as part of Art Make-and-Take is “a perfect fit.”
“There couldn’t be a better match,” Vidro said.
The students have the opportunity to use the techniques they learn in Vidro’s classes or explore a new medium on their own to create artwork.
“There’s always something new everyday,” Vidro said of art. “There are new techniques or students get to learn old ones.”
Trying something new is something even the finalists in this year’s event are looking forward to doing in future years.