By Anna Ferraro
Chelsea Watkins, a paraprofessional and substitute teacher at Garrison School is committed to making her students feel loved and esteemed. The morning of May 16, she launched the 1st annual Garrison School Art Show. For Watkins, the objective of the art show was to “encourage self-esteem by encouraging [the students] to create … ” Watkins shared that the looks on the student’s faces when they walked in and saw their art on display was “pretty awesome.”
The art show commenced with a reception – cake, punch and prizes for the students. Watkins shared that the students were overwhelmingly surprised to be rewarded for their work, saying, “They did this just for themselves, they didn’t expect to get anything out of it.”
Watkins has held a position at Garrison School for 5years. During that time, she has seen that many of the Garrison students “come from a lot of different backgrounds… they need extra attention, and it’s our job here to give it to them.”
On multiple occasions, Watkins saw students hold back from participation in school presentations, saying that at time, “fear kept them from performing.” For Watkins, art had always been a safe place – a place where she could express herself, and feel free. Her vision was birthed through her observation that “the kids needed some kind of safe outlet that they could express themselves in.”
When the idea was introduced to the students this spring, Watkins shared that “they really got excited about it.” They were given four weeks to complete their drawings. There were no restrictions or themes for the display – Watkins wanted it to be “solely their plan and their idea of what they wanted to do for themselves.” Using basic supplies, the students went to work, completing most of their work at home after school. At the end of the four weeks, 23 students ranging in age from 10-18 had submitted pieces – some even brought multiple submissions. Looking at the display, Watkins said, “It was a really good turnout of work.”
The drawings ranged in variety from being hand-drawn, colored, or from being very in-depth to very simple. There were a lot of fun vehicle drawings, as well as some very intricate flower drawings.
Looking ahead, Watkins is working on procuring some grants to purchase art supplies. She hopes to host more shows and open a monthly art club so that even more kids can participate and use art as a “positive coping mechanism” for the stress in their young lives.
Cautiously and reflectively, Watkins shared, “Garrison School doesn’t always get the most positive feedback from the community … I want to convey that these students have the same thoughts and things they want to share as other kids in the community … maybe by showing that, we can show that things are not always as assumed.”
Shout-out to the community: Several students’ pieces will be displayed in the June Gallery Hop in the Soap Co. Coffee Shop. Be sure to check them out and give them a hearty round of applause.