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Getting on their feet for creativity

Brenden Alexander creating his Mario-themed display table.

SILVER CREEK — If you thought a worldwide pandemic could hamper creativity in Silver Creek, some resourceful students would like to invite you to take a seat.

A group of fifth-graders at Silver Creek Elementary School, with the encouragement of their families and support of the district, rallied to participate remotely in their beloved afternoon art club referred to as “The Chair Project” during the pandemic shutdown.

A long-standing tradition, the goal of “The Chair Project” is to help young Black Knights explore creative expression. Students re-paint, re-build, re-decorate and re-explore their personalities on old wooden chairs, tables, shelves and benches. (It’s important to note that the “The Chair Project” is a loose description — students are welcome to refurbish tables, bookshelves and other items.)

It’s a much-anticipated optional creative outlet for fifth-graders in their final year of elementary school. They and their parents often designate a piece of furniture from their household or pick up something up at a yard sale or in a relative’s attic or garage for a makeover.

But this year, parents reached out to longtime art teacher and club adviser Denise Williams-Stebbins for guidance in undertaking “The Chair Project” while learning and working from home.

Owen Kilburn shows off on his waterfall table.

“This is an excellent example of how parents stepped in to help their child succeed in their educational endeavors and created family bonding at the same time,” says Ms. Williams-Stebbins.

The project is designed to help students select paint and other art supplies, learn various techniques and processes, and make decisions on what would work and what wouldn’t work in communicating their ideas.

But, most of all, “The Chair Project” is about these fifth-graders, on the cusp of middle school, exhibiting their own creative freedom as they prepare for their next level of education.

Ms. Williams-Stebbins says every year “The Chair Project” exceeds expectations and the pieces created by the students are typically proudly displayed at the annual art show. This year, however, the pandemic prevented an in-person art show – but “The Chair Project” results were just as fantastic as ever.And while she is not sure exactly how many Black Knights participated in “The Chair Project” this year, Ms. Williams-Stebbins notes more than 10 parents reached out to thank her for providing instructions to do the project at home and a few shared before-during-and-after results:

¯ Black Knight Owen Kilburn decided on a waterfall concept for the small side table he selected to refurbish. “At first I was worried I would help Owen too much, but honestly it was nice having a project that we could work on together,” says Bobbie Kilburn, mother of Owen. “He was able to conceptualize what he wanted it to look like. I created stencils with my vinyl cutter for the fish and the lily pond.”

Caden Fote concentrates on painting a bookshelf.

¯ Black Knight Caden Fote re-imagined a bookshelf to hold his favorite series – “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by Jeff Kiney – and modeled the illustrations on those in the novels. “With some help from his dad, he added sides and a back to the shelf and then painted it to match his book collection,” says Coren Fote, mother of Caden.

¯ Black Knight Brenden Alexander created a display table with a Nintendo/Mario theme, with a different medium for the various parts. The top is marker and colored pencil with acrylic paint on the whole unit. He used watercolors and black glue for the Mario and Luigi characters. “I was extremely proud of him for how well he did that top,” says Steffanie Palesh, mother of Brenden Alexander. “He wanted it to be perfect.”

Besides providing valuable lessons in family collaboration, repurposing and the importance of creativity, the students also gain a sense of accomplishment through the “The Chair Project.” And, of course, a piece of furniture to proudly display in their homes as a meaningful and lasting reminder of their elementary school days is a great bonus.

All materials for the art club are donated or provided by parents or paid for via small fundraising efforts.

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