Heart To Art

December 18, 2020
“How will the children color pictures without crayons?” That is the question bemoaned by Ms. Jessica Davis, the newly appointed art teacher at Clay Elementary School, Clay, Alabama.  After years of applications to have this position funded, approval finally was received from the Community of Clay, effective Fall 2019.  The school hustled to arrange a spacious room for the new teacher and eagerly envisioned a flourishing art program for students.  Alas! There is always a “fly in the ointment.”  The establishment of the position funded a salary but neglected to include any budgeted monies to support the art program itself! 

“How can I teach young, budding artists without any supplies?” moaned the teacher.  Little did she know that her lament fell on some ears of Faith Lutheran Church, which is about a block from the school on Deerfoot Parkway in Clay.  The new teacher was devastated over the dire circumstances facing her.

But wait, there’s more!  The distraught teacher was unaware that over the years Faith Lutheran had “adopted” Clay Elementary School for various “God’s Work. Our Hands.” projects.  Included in these endeavors were projects completed by Faith’s children and adults, such as cleaning a garden resting area; painting garden rocks and decorating them with various images or little words indicative of God’s love such as faith, love, care, hope; building a garden bench and painting it bright yellow to mimic the sunshine; and keeping the school’s health room supplied with “Undies for Children” to help youngsters deal with untimely, embarrassing accidents.  Unaware of the relationship between the school and Faith church, the art teacher had no reason to know that there was HOPE for her dilemma resolution!

After hearing of the pressing need for the school’s art supplies, the problem was discussed with Faith member Amy LaRue, a quiet, energetic, “get it done now” kind of person.  In a few days she and her cadre of helpers embraced the idea, named the project “Heart to Art,” and hastened to implement a fast-track, four-week approach to gather art supplies. The urgency for the “Heart to Art” group centered on the fact that the school year had already begun. The art teacher had an abundance of young artists on her hands and nothing in their hands! 

The first step in “Heart to Art” was to explain the project to assembled congregants on Sunday morning.  On the three subsequent Sundays, an updated progress report was given along with a challenge to participate in addressing the school’s vital need.

The “Heart to Art” team sprang into action!  Who anticipated how quickly colorful poster boards could be designed and lists of potential supplies made highly visible? Who thought that having individual paper hearts available for contributors to sign and place on the poster board would tie members close to the project? Who knew that the children, intrigued by the sharpies and paper hearts that they had helped to cut out, would commandeer the “Heart Detail” each Sunday and actively campaign for individuals to place a signed heart on the poster board?  Who realized the effectiveness of flashy notices that were published in the weekly “Tuesday Blast,” the nickname for the weekly church e-mail newsletter?  Who would guess that the pastor’s wife would feel such sympathy for the art teacher’s plight that she herself would go through her old teaching supplies and donate them to the art room?  Who knew that the pastor would faithfully bless the supplies upon arrival, a reminder that these gifts were “offerings gathered for the mission of the church?”

The original list of art needs was developed in consultation with the art teacher. It included supplies such as paints, paint cups, brushes, special modelling clay, scissors, crayons, color pencils, and paper. Many Faith members chose to purchase items from the list and bring them on Sunday mornings. The “Heart to Art” team volunteered to shop personally for those congregants who found it easier to donate monetarily.

The pile of treasures grew weekly, and the growing piles on the two long tables began to flow to the floor beneath, making the “Heart to Art” gifts a kaleidoscope of shapes and colors.

At the end of the project, the “Heart to Art” team was asked to give a general estimate of the final amount of supplies that was collected. Declaring that a specific number was too difficult, the best estimate was that the numerous boxes filled one car trunk and the entire back of a large van!

What was the teacher’s reaction upon seeing the supplies arrive at the art room?  It was reported that “she was ecstatic!” This teacher’s elation and the students’ progress can be verified by visiting their website at https://www.theartsyeducator.com/events. The great reward of the “Heart to Art” project can be seen by viewing the smiles on young faces as they display their creative endeavors in pictures on the website!

“Heart to Art” successfully met the immediate needs of the art teacher and her students. It is not a completed project nor are other endeavors made on behalf of the school by Faith Church.  The relationship between the school and the church is an abiding one.  In fact, Clay Elementary has notified Faith’s Pastor Keith Cook that the church has been adopted by the school.  Apparently the two entities have a oneness in that each has adopted the other!  (This reciprocal adoption arrangement defies explanation, but it sounds like a God-plan.)

Faith’s community outreach is based on the words of Christ: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:39)
Janet S. Awtrey
Faith Lutheran Church, Clay, Alabama
November 2020