When you make your way around Waverly, the journey is made a bit brighter these days thanks to a community-based art project spearheaded by Waverly Primary and Intermediate Art teacher Kim Swepston.
“I have multiple students in every grade level from kindergarten through fifth grades whose artwork is on display at a local restaurant or whose artwork is being used in an authentic way at one of our participating restaurants,” said Swepston.
The program began in November 2019, she said.
“Each month, I select four Artist of the Month students to have a special display at one of the following restaurants: Cardo’s, Lloyd’s, KFC, or Diner 23,” Swepston said. “Two pieces of their artwork, a photo of the student, and a short biography are displayed in a frame for the entire month, at which point I exchange them for new students’ works. This initiative usually involves about 24 students per academic year.”
Even more art students are included in other projects that were kick-started in 2019, said Swepston.
“We’ve been creating placemats for both Lloyd’s Pizzeria and Cardo’s Pizza. So far, we’ve provided fall and winter placemats which generated opportunities for far more students (20 to date) to be involved than the Artist of the Month program alone,” she said. “In addition, Diner 23 has allowed us to create artwork for the condiment holders that sit on each table in the restaurant, and we have created fall and winter pieces for them. Thirty-five students have had artwork displayed on tables there. Lastly, Lloyd’s donated pizza boxes to my fifth-grade students and they are graciously displaying some parodies of famous artworks that the students painted on them. Approximately 15 boxes are on semi-permanent display in their dining room right now.”
For a local business to participate, “all they need to do is ask”, said Swepston.
“My kids are super excited to be involved in not only beautifying the community, but also providing useful products for them, as well,” she said. “They would love to be involved in making menus, posters, or more placemats.”
By allowing art students to display their creations in their establishments, said Swepston, “local business owners are helping to promote a positive relationship between the schools and the community.”
“It gets the students excited to be part of something outside of the traditional classroom setting. The businesses that have participated so far have expressed that it has been a very positive experience for them,” she said. ”Students and their families come into the businesses to see the artwork, take pictures, and even share on social media.”
Being part of a “small, tight-knit community” affords special opportunities, she added.
“It is very important for students to see the impact their artwork can have in their own neighborhood,” she said. “Conversely, the businesses can benefit from supporting the students because the artwork generates additional patronage to their restaurants or stores.”
Interested business owners can contact Swepston by calling the Waverly Primary or Intermediate School or by visiting the Waverly Elementary Art Facebook page.
“There is no money involved. Everything we do is at no expense to the restaurants, students, or community, as many of the things are projects we are already doing in the classroom anyway,” she said. “Basically, this is a community-based art program. I want the kids to see that art is a huge part of our everyday lives and that artists make contributions to the community in many different ways.”