Wednesday, 25 June 2014 16:06

Picture-perfect program at Tompkins School concluded with show and sale

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Can’t get a better ending than that to a school program.

The Tompkins School held a photography-based show and sale in the school gym June 12 with the students’ artwork available through silent auction.
Thanks to an ArtSmart grant administration applied for and received in the amount of $10,000, students learned from skilled southwest Saskatchewan photographer/artist Katelyn Toney of KT Photography.
Toney came into the classroom for 17 half-days over the last four months to teach them the technical skills in photography, but also made the students realize the natural beauty of the community and their school. It helped them develop an appreciation for detail and further solidified a sense of community pride.
Through classroom and hands-on work the students went out and took photos — a lot of photos. They took the best ones and decided to hold an art show with them. Simple enough, right?
“We started with literally 4,000 pictures and narrowed it down,” explains Tompkins principal Tracey Stenson with a chuckle about the efforts of the 15 students who took part.
“Some of the pictures went from anywhere from $80 to $100. At first we wanted to just have a couple from each students, but there were so many (excellent photos) that they had a hard time narrowing it down ... the artist selected them and then the kids cut it down from there. We wanted to do just for cost recovery to start because we had to send so many prints away and it took a while to get them all back.”
Toney was an equally capable teacher and molded the students — ranging in age from five to 12 — into not only young people who could handle a camera, but opened their eyes to their community.
Each student sold five pictures (sized 16x20) for a total of 75 prints during the evening, to some art-hungry buyers.
While it sounds like a fundraiser, as the evening included a beef-on-a-bun supper too, it was far more than that. Stenson couldn’t have been happier.
She says she put a write up on the school’s Facebook page and received some decent feedback including one person who stated she expected to see some snapshots, but what it turned out to be was true art.
That made Stenson incredibly proud of what the students and Toney accomplished.
“The program gave the kids a sense of pride in their community and you don’t have to go outside of the community to see beautiful things,” explains Stenson. “The spin-off I didn’t expect was when we got there that night. I had talked to them earlier in the day and told them, ‘look you don’t have to prepare or anything, like make a special speech, but know people will come up to you and ask personal questions about your photos.’ That night, the interaction between the students and the (attending public members) blew me away. The students were eloquent, mature and to watch them they were more proud of their work and they answered the questions with ease with the adults talking to them ... They were the experts, not the adults.”
Tara Carlson, 8, loved the program. She says the sale June 12 went well as she was able to share it with family and friends, but it was the overall experience which will be the highlight.
“I had taken pictures before, but (the program) made me realize all the different things I could take pictures of,” explains Carlson who took pictures of her grandpa seeding, mailboxes, branding irons and boxes of baby chicks. “I told my mom (about the program) and she thought it would be fun.”
Stenson says school staff realize they have a unique situation with a small student population and when opportunities arise such as this one with the ArtSmart grant, they have to take full advantage of them.
“We have to pull in a lot of pieces of the curriculum within a project like this. How can we take advantage of it?” says Stenson who adds the children learned so much more than just how to handle a camera or about aperture and film speeds.

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Ryan Dahlman

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